The Aquinnah selectmen this week called on the newly-formed Gay Head Light committee for better communication and a stepped-up pace. “It needs more structure and we need to go forward faster than we are,” selectman Jim Newman told committee members who attended the selectmen’s meeting Tuesday.
Mr. Newman said the selectmen have received only one set of minutes since the committee began meeting in January. The selectmen said there is a critical need to get moving on fund-raising, planning for the relocation of the lighthouse and coordination between the town and the federal agencies involved.
But Elise LeBovit, chairman of the committee, defended the group’s progress.
“What I’m hearing isn’t quite jibing because I feel we’re very organized and very on top of things and we’re actually feeling we’re waiting on the selectmen for our next step with fundraising,” said Ms. LeBovit who participated via conference call. “We really need to have information from you too. If the minutes aren’t getting to you we need to know that.”
The next full meeting of the 15-member committee is March 21.
At a February special town meeting, voters approved having the town begin the process of taking ownership of the light, which must be moved soon due to erosion at the Gay Head Cliffs. First the U.S. Coast Guard must declare the lighthouse surplus property, which is expected to happen this year. The town must then write an application of ownership for the light. Under the federal National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act, the lighthouses that have been declared surplus property are offered at no cost to towns and preservation groups.
The historic lighthouse now stands 50 feet from an eroding cliff. The estimated cost of moving the light is $1.5 to $3 million.
Funding sources for the project will include private fundraising and possibly town Community Preservation Act monies. The committee has been considering several parcels around the lighthouse to move the structure. Ms. LeBovit is the acting real estate agent for one of the parcels, but the selectmen said it was a clear conflict with her role as committee chairman.
“You say you would turn over your commission minus your expenses . . . that is exactly illegal,” Mr. Newman said. “You cannot do it.”
“It taints the process,” selectman Beverly Wright added.
Ms. LeBovit said she will step aside as real estate agent for the property.