Lights out for Point Abino Light­house fund­ing re­quest

The Niagara Falls Review - - Local - JAMES CULIC

One month af­ter the Point Abino Light­house Preser­va­tion So­ci­ety wrote to Fort Erie town hall ask­ing for more money to fix the light­house, the group has aban­doned the con­tro­ver­sial re­quest.

On Oct. 9 town hall re­ceived a let­ter from PALPS pres­i­dent Rick Doan, stat­ing he wished to with­draw an ear­lier re­quest he made for $15,000 to com­plete restora­tion.

The light­house, which is owned by the town but sits be­hind the gates of a pri­vate com­mu­nity with lim­ited pub­lic ac­cess on a few week­ends in the sum­mer, has be­come a hot topic on the mu­nic­i­pal cam­paign trail, with dif­fer­ent can­di­dates propos­ing all sorts of ideas, in­clud­ing selling the prop­erty, tear­ing it down, or putting more money into fur­ther restora­tion. Some can­di­dates have even sug­gested run­ning boat tours to the site since it is largely in­ac­ces­si­ble by land be­cause the only road lead­ing to the light­house is con­trolled by the home­own­ers of the gated com­mu­nity sur­round­ing it.

In the let­ter from Doan, he cites un­spec­i­fied “on­go­ing is­sues” as the rea­son the fund­ing re­quest was be­ing with­drawn. Doan was con­tacted for com­ment and asked to elab­o­rate on the rea­son for the change of course re­gard­ing fund­ing, but de­clined to do so.

“Our ex­ec­u­tive of PALPS has de­cided not to lower our­selves and re­spond to [James Culic] or your pa­per,” he wrote in an email.

Back in 2012, Doan and PALPS were in­stru­men­tal in con­vinc­ing the town to spend $1.5 mil­lion in tax­payer dollars on restora­tion work at the light­house.

Some can­di­dates have ar­gued the town didn’t re­ally spend $1.5 mil­lion on the light­house be­cause the money came from a few dif­fer­ent places, but the en­tire amount was funded with tax dollars.

When the town first pur­chased the light­house in 2003 it only paid $5,000 for it be­cause it was land­locked by pri­vate roads and in bad con­di­tion. The deal did in­clude the nearby light­house keeper’s house, which the town orig­i­nally planned to sell and turn a profit from.

The town shopped it around for years, hop­ing to get $900,000 for the house, but even­tu­ally set­tled for less than half of that, selling for $400,000.

That $400,000 from the sale of the house (which was tax­payer money added to the town’s gen­eral re­serves) was then added to a $400,000 fed­eral grant (also pub­lic tax dollars), and the re­main­ing $700,000 was pulled largely from town re­serve funds to reach the $1.5 mil­lion needed for the restora­tion.

METROLAND FILE PHOTO

The Point Abino Light­house has been at the cen­tre of a heated de­bate on the cam­paign trail.

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