Beach Access and Park Issues
February 8, 2011

Bodie Island Lighthouse needs more funds to continue renovation
 

BY SANDY SEMANS



The future is not looking good for completion of the repairs needed for Bodie Island Lighthouse so that the historic structure can once again be opened to the public.

A massive restoration project was begun in December, 2009, but while approximately 85 percent of the contracted work has been finished, additional structural integrity issues were discovered after workers removed paint and corrosion buildup. A structural assessment has determined the full extent of the additional damage, which includes problems with framing, lantern beam supports, masonry and stitching, and steel drum and belt course segments located at the top of the lighthouse.

The additional work is estimated to cost about $1.6 million more than the $3.09 million appropriated for the project in 2009.

Also in 2009, Congress appropriated $6.7 million in a different line item to renovate the park's administration building/office complex and visitor center at Fort Raleigh National Historic Site. That project is under budget and the leftover funds could be used to finish the lighthouse project, but language prohibiting the transfer of funds to another project was inserted in the appropriation line item.

The only two options for funding the additional work would be for Congress to grant relief from the prohibition of transferring the leftover money or wait until 2012 and hope that at that time a new appropriation is made.

Members of Congress trying to find a solution to the problem are not optimistic.

"Senator Hagan is working with Senator [Richard] Burr and Congressmen [Walter] Jones and [David] Price to identify a legislative fix," said Sadie Weiner, Hagan's press secretary. "She will be working with her colleagues who sit on the Appropriations
Committee to include language that would address this problem at the next opportunity."

Joshua Bowlen of Rep. Jones office agreed that a legislative fix is the only option. "There is no statutory flexibility so we need a change in the law to allow the leeway needed."

If the current contractor finishes what is feasible under the circumstances by the anticipated date in March and the scaffolding, safety building and fencing is removed, the cost to reassemble them at a later date will significantly increase the cost as much as $500,000.

"This is one of those unfortunate circumstances where taxpayers will lose because demobilization and remobilization costs are large," said Bowlen.

Language has been provided to the Appropriations Committee in hopes that the members will consider including it in the budget. And then the question becomes whether, if placed in the budget, it will be in the continuing resolution set to be voted on in March or in the next full year budget. The first might just fix the problem for a few weeks, the other for the next year.

In a year when earmarks have been taken off the table by the Congressional leadership as well as the administration, it is unclear what sort of reception the proposed language change will receive.

But one thing is certain, said Bowlen. "In this situation, time is not our friend."


(Sandy Semans is editor of The Outer Banks Sentinel, where this story first appeared. For more Outer Banks news in the Sentinel, go to http://obsentinel.womacknewspapers.com/)




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