A light at the end of the Point?

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By Meg Olson

Whatcom County Parks and Recreation staff have outlined the steps necessary for the Lighthouse Marine Park lighthouse project to move forward. Director Michael McFarlane is projecting that with “all the necessary resources in place, it is estimated the project would be complete in approximately two years.”

“While at one time there may have been a way to facilitate the project differently, it’s clear today that this is a public works project and we will need to conform to public works requirements,” McFarlane wrote in a July 23 email to members of the Point Roberts Lighthouse Society board of directors. County legal staff had previously suggested the society could build the lighthouse on parks land as a private project and gift it to the county, a less cumbersome and costly approach.

McFarlane outlined the process, beginning with a feasibility study estimated to take six months. The feasibility study would be followed by the design process from a “schematic design drawing” to final construction drawings and specifications. The project would then need to go out to bid before moving to construction.

It isn’t clear how much more design work will be required, given that the society had previously contracted a design drawing and preliminary blueprints in order to secure a preliminary cost estimate from H.B. Hansen based on those design specifications as developed.

McFarlane expressed some concern the funds already raised by the society would be insufficient to move forward.

“The society has obtained an estimate of $500,000 for construction of the structure based on the conceptual design,” he wrote. “It is expected that the actual cost will substantially exceed this estimate as the design is refined and other related costs factored in.”

Lighthouse Society board members Darrel and Dorothy Sutton have offered to top up the society’s coffers to meet the estimated bid amount, a gift of over $450,000. The society has been working on the project since 2009 and has secured the approval from the U.S. Coast Guard to move the existing navigation light into the proposed structure.

According to McFarlane, immediate steps will include meeting with parks staff and society board members to determine the project scope and process for moving forward. Following formal approval from the county executive and county council, the project would move on to the feasibility phase as long as sufficient funding was available.

The county parks commission will be meeting in Point Roberts on Thursday, August 20, touring local parks and holding their business meeting at 6 p.m. at Lighthouse Marine Park. The commission will listen to public comments on the project and other parks and recreation issues at the beginning of the meeting.

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