Getting to Yes: County parks proposes way to build the lighthouse

By Meg Olson

Whatcom County staff have estimated the cost to build a lighthouse at Lighthouse Marine Park as proposed by the local lighthouse society would be $1.2 million. With the project budget currently limited to a $500,000 pledge from Point Roberts residents Darrell and Dorothy Sutton, county parks director Michael McFarlane said they would be meeting with the society to develop options to scale the project back.

Addressing the county council’s public works committee at their March 22 meeting, county executive Jack Louws came out immediately to quash the possibility of the county contributing dollars to the project. “In light of all the capital needs we have in the county the contribution we could make through the parks department is to facilitate the project through staff time.”

McFarlane said his department was “trying to figure out a way to get to yes,” and had consulted with designers and engineers to get an idea of what components would raise the project cost outside of the $500,000 budget. “What we’re recommending is scaling the project down to fit the budget,” he said.

McFarlane said he understood the top priorities for the facility were that it be an operating light and it have an observation platform and indoor space. Keeping the indoor space unplumbed and unheated, perhaps as a new home for the Orca center, would keep costs down.

The next step will be to meet with the lighthouse society to develop a “white paper” that would “get everyone on the same page” prior to drafting a memorandum of agreement. Council member Barbara Brenner said she wanted to retain the possibility of council committing additional funds to the project. “That would be entirely up to council,” McFarlane said. “This is a way of getting something for that $500,000.”

Council member Ken Mann asked that the white paper present a number of options in the event county council chose to contribute match funds raised in the community. Satpal Sidhu also asked that county staff look at possibilities of donated services or materials being included to bring costs down.

McFarlane said the time frame they were considering would have permitting and design begin at the end of 2017 with construction in 2019.

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