Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
111 North Central Avenue
North Wildwood, New Jersey 08260
Rebuttal to the Mayor of North Wildwood's plans for the Lighthouse.
Having read North Wildwood Mayor Patrick Rosenello’s statements in the
November 28 edition of the
Cape May County Herald, I have to offer my comments on his future plans for the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse.
It is very upsetting to me that he wants to unravel 22 years of
improvements and progress to return to an arrangement similar to the
early years of the Lighthouse’s resurrection.
no disparities to those involved at that time, they did the best they
could with the little resources and
scarce information about the history of the building or it’s former residents.
was originally set up as a tourist information center with the various
rooms used to display a collection of
mostly unrelated North Wildwood pictures and memorabilia. Visitors
would leave the building confused, many thinking that Dr. Margaret Mace
(a revered local physician) had lived in the Lighthouse and other
of research enlightened us about the information we needed, not only to
restore the missing architectural elements of the building, but also of
the Lighthouse Service use of each room. Deeper and much more research
revealed the names and details of the keepers and their family members
who lived there.
this historical information had to be showcased and properly
interpreted throughout the building. Approximately 22 years later and
with much work, we now have a first rate lighthouse museum, that we
think is second to none in the State. But as yet, our plan is far
from being complete.
term goal is to present the Lighthouse as a “living history
museum”. We feel that this is the most correct way to showcase
this gem of a lighthouse in a way that presents, first hand, and in an
intimate way, the lives and duties
of the keepers.
to accomplish this, the gift shop would have to be relocated to
re-create the 1874 kitchen: many of the Coast Guard, Life Saving
Service, and the local commercial fishing industries displays would
also have to be moved. This brings us to the last part of the plan: To
acquire the 1939 US Coast Guard Life Boat Station Complex and convert
those structures to a maritime history museum. The Lighthouse and Life
Boat Station combined would become "Historic Anglesea Maritime
Village”. All of that being said, there is hardly room in the
Lighthouse now to display the Lighthouse history let alone anything
The Mayors proposed
plan of also including North Wildwood history AND including North
Wildwood tourism offices would truly destroy the integrity and intent
of the Lighthouse.
In regards to the
management of the site, although the Mayor tries to give the impression
that the Friends are a
group of people, new to involvement with the Lighthouse, in fact some of the founding members were there from the
very beginning. The late Phyllis Catanoso, our past President, is the person credited with originally saving the Lighthouse.
The Mayors statement
that there are already employees on payroll who could take over the
Lighthouse responsibilities at no extra cost to the taxpayers, is very
misleading. The current staff is made up of seasonal employees whose
salaries are paid by the Friends. During the off season the Lighthouse
is staffed by volunteers.
Regarding the grounds
and gardens surrounding the Lighthouse, these are maintained by myself
and a group of volunteers. These extensive, very specialized, “estate
like” gardens require care 7 days per week for much of the year, unlike
most of the other City landscaped areas. These gardens require a
substantial budget each year to replant, feed and maintain, all paid
for by the Friends. In addition, the weekly grass cutting is done
without charge by a company owned by one of our trustees. They also
provide us with snow removal during the
years ago a local paint contractor who is a Friend of the Lighthouse,
painted the entire exterior of the building at no charge. This was an
incredible savings at a time when grant money was not (and still is
More proof in
many ways that it does not benefit the Lighthouse or the taxpayers in
the least, to have the City Of North Wildwood have any connection to
Chairman Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
Dear Friends of Hereford
Our organization, the non-profit
“Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse”, is scheduled to be removed as
the Lighthouse by the Mayor and Council of the City of North
Wildwood. We need the help of all of our members and supporters,
now more than ever. We are being forced to vacate the property by the
end of the year. Here is the situation.
The State of New Jersey, New Jersey Department of Environmental
Protection – Division of Parks and Forestry, owns the entire Lighthouse
property and leases it to the City. Our organization, the non-profit
“Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse” in turn, has a management
agreement with the City. This is a highly unusual situation because
most lighthouses are directly leased to a non-profit organization.
Commissioner Bob Martin
The core of our founding trustees were the
persons responsible for the initial saving of the Lighthouse, its early
renovations and finally the historically accurate restoration from
1999-2011. These same people were also the ones who developed the
museum, tours, gift shop, special events, gardens and everything else
connected with the Lighthouse. The “Friends” first began as “the
Lighthouse Commission” and evolved into what it is today.
Relations with the previous four mayors and
their councils have been fairly good, until now. Occasionally however,
even under some of the past administrations, interference by elected
officials has created some problems for those running the Lighthouse.
Because this situation has always had the
potential to cause problems, the late Mayor, Bill Henfey, spoke of his
desire to see the eventual transfer of the lease from the City to the
“Friends”. Unfortunately, the exact opposite situation has been brewing
for the last year. The current Mayor, with vague and unfounded
accusations of management problems, as well as so-called liability
concerns, has asked City Council to pass a resolution terminating our
original management agreement. This will expire December 31, 2017. They
have also drafted a new document which will turn almost all authority
and duties regarding the Lighthouse and Gardens over to the City.
In a nutshell; this politically motivated move
would restrict our organization to only running tours and the gift
shop. Our trustees would no longer be able to oversee the restoration
or maintenance of the Lighthouse or Gardens. New people, with no
experience with or knowledge of the history of the building or its
restoration background, would then be running the Lighthouse.
The new management agreement is so restrictive
in every minute detail, which even our ads, posters, brochures and
signs would have to be approved by the city.
The Mayor has even hired a horticulture
consulting firm that has a plan that would call for the removal of all
the trees on the Lighthouse property, as well changing the plant
varieties to what they think
are more appropriate. This in itself is heartbreaking to us.
We have sent our response to the Mayor and
council in October. It stated that we cannot sign this agreement, and
went on to say we will only sign one that is similar to the original or
ideally, work with the State for the transfer of the lease.
We just received a reply on November 14th
acknowledging that there will be no agreement between the City and
“Friends” for the year 2018. Our organization will have to vacate the
property and the “Friends” organization will probably have to dissolve
sometime in the New Year.
As many of you are aware, I am the author of
the history of the Lighthouse, “Guardians of the Hereford Inlet”. If
you read it, you know that for 143 years the only villains of the
Lighthouse were wind, rain, snow, fire and the crashing waves of the
Atlantic Ocean. Now its very different - the villain for the first time
We have always felt we are the modern day
keepers of Hereford and we have to stay vigilant, guarding it to the
end. We consider this place, with its history of great dedication and
sacrifice and numerous lives both saved and lost, to be sacred and
should not be treated as a political football. If you are happy
with the work we have done restoring and running the Lighthouse,
building and maintaining the gardens, hosting special events,
producing the newsletter, developing our tours and museum displays,
running our “Buy a Brick Program” etc. etc., Please send a strong
letter of support (and outrage) to
Department of Environmental Protection
PO Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402
Thank you for your long support. Remember, there is not much time left.
Your prayers will help as well. Remember, we need to respond quickly.
In response to the statements and charges made by Mayor Rosenello of
the City of North Wildwood about the Friends of Hereford Inlet
Lighthouse. His statements are found on both the official North
Wildwoods Facebook page and its Tourism page, as well as being sent out
to all those that sent a letter of complaint to the Mayor or an
I would like to offer the true facts regarding the Mayors charges, the
majority of which are misleading or untrue. The Mayors mission is to
remove our organization from being stewards of the Lighthouse,
obviously for his own political gain.
First of all, there have not been “talks for over a year” regarding a
new management agreement. Several months ago we received a copy of a
council resolution ending our present agreement as of December 31. In
October we received a new proposed agreement that would essentially
take all the responsibilities away from the people who have been
maintaining, restoring and operating the historic site since its
earliest days. Our board members could neither sign nor negotiate this
outrageous contract which was hurtful and insulting to some people that
have given up most of their personal lives helping to make Hereford
what it is today.
The Mayors statement that the City has been the primary
organization behind the preservation, rehabilitation and operation of
the Lighthouse is not just misleading, it is false.
When it was first acquired by lease through Mayor
Catanoso, he set up the ”Lighthouse Commission” which would be a board
of volunteers that would restore, operate and maintain the site without
local tax dollars. It generated its own funds that were kept in a Trust
account. The Commission wrote and applied for all the restoration
grants we received, not the City.
The City’s primary involvement was that it paid the
various stages of the work as it progressed, and then was reimbursed by
the grants. This is how grants work. All matching funds and other costs
were either paid for by the Commission or by the non- profit Friends.
History is history—you can’t re-write it to suit you like some people
try to do.
Mayors Catanoso, Vinci, Palumbo and Henfey were all
enthusiastic supporters of our work at the Lighthouse. Other than them
however, ask any of our current or past employees, how many times they
have seen a City official at the Lighthouse or at any of our special
events and fundraisers. Many will say Zero. And its not for lack of
regards to the Mayors charges against
on behalf of the City
Several years ago a resident of an adjoining property, one evening, cut
through a wire fence belonging to the Lighthouse and cut down a mature
pine tree.( State property) When discovered in the morning the Police
were called and the person admitted to doing this. He was given a
warning not to do so again (even though this was trespassing and
vandalism). We told the police we did not want any further action on
this. A few years later someone from that same property cut another
tree on the Lighthouse side of the property line again. The police were
not called this time but out of frustration, a letter was sent to the
property owner that the next time this occurred, which would be the
third, the police and legal action would follow.
I have to note here that since he
has been Mayor, I have told him that private landscapers, hired by
neighbors, have been spraying herbicides on large areas in the wild,
wildlife habitat section of the Lighthouse property (State owned) and
also on the open space areas behind that (County owned). Despite my
complaints, he apparently has never had these people notified by City
officials. That’s why we had to finally send a letter to the tree
Unilateral action regarding a City event
The annual Christmas tree lighting was never a City event.( I almost
have to laugh at this because for the last 25 years it was just mostly
me decorating, planning and donating a lot of decorations). The event
was begun by long time Commission chairman and volunteer Mr. Al
Mouklas. When I took it over I was basically copying an event from my
hometown area in Pa. at Rose Tree Park. Each year I always invited the
current Mayor to light the tree.
reason we cancelled last year was this. Sometime in early Fall, I was
asked by the Mayor's office to attend a meeting at City Hall in regards
to the landscaping at the Lighthouse. The City Administrator was there
(not the Mayor) and a Mr. Lomax of Lomax Consulting (Horticulture) that
the City had hired for planning/consulting. I was handed a report by
them that was very negative and critical of the landscaping and gardens
of the Lighthouse. Lomax recommended removing all the pine trees and
also replacing most of the other plants on the property with what he
recommended. What a blind side shot this was, with all the awards
hanging on the walls and all of the books and magazines it was featured
I went back to my board with this report
and everyone thought that we would have to get ready for a fight to
prevent this. The thought of chainsaws and front end loaders leveling
the property was dis-heartening. We started to organize a letter
writing & email campaign as well as calling all of the
environmental & historical organizations. One group began to get a
picket line together. Anyway, so focused on this threat, we figured we
would have to cancel the Tree Lighting. Our press release simply said,
“due to unforeseen circumstances”. We didn’t want to begin a
controversy until it happened. To paraphrase the Mayor however,
his statement to the papers was “ the Friends have management issues
that the City has to look at more closely.
Improper abusive treatment of city
Last November I pulled into the
lighthouse parking lot to see a huge city truck in the courtyard on top
of the area where the engraved pavers are. It was not built for
the weight of vehicles and the long time employee knew this. He didn’t
see anyone at the Lighthouse this day and just went ahead. There are
over $100,000 worth of pavers with the names of loved ones that we have
been so careful with. I’ve done the work myself not just to save money
but to be more careful with these special bricks. I went ballistic when
I saw this and anyone else would have too. It was careless and
irresponsible and now there are many areas that have sunk out of level.
Too expensive and difficult to repair.
Inconsistent public access provided to
I’m not sure
what the Mayor had in mind by this. We have always allowed small
intimate weddings with certain rules and restrictions for a fee. The
only problem I remember having was several times certain Mayors told us
we had to allow some weddings here that were bigger than we allow (
friends of those Mayors) or not to charge a fee. We allow wedding
photos here but we have guidelines for the group, photographer and limo
Annual report/Annual plan
Last year at a meeting the Mayor said the City did not receive several
reports & plans that are due every year. As Chairman I do these
every year and hand them personally to the City Administrator or the
Administrative assistant. I insisted I handed in the so called missing
reports. I assume they were misplaced “by accident”. At the end of the
meeting I returned within a half hour with copies of those reports.
Since then, I ask for a receipt for everything. Last week I called the
City administrator Kevin Yecco, and asked if those charges were dropped
from the record because I obviously had the reports to make copies so
quickly. He said they certainly were.
Certificate of insurance
were not only in the annual plan but are also handed in three more
times a year, with each special events application I turn in to the
Phase four grant closing problem
accused the Friends of not closing out the last grant properly, costing
the City $17,000. Here is the full story. In the Fall of 2011,
representatives from the NJ Historic Trust and The NJDOT, both of whom
awarded the Lighthouse grants for phase four of our restoration, came
to Hereford to get a first hand look at the completed project. Our
project architect Hugh McCauley and I were there to walk them through.
The project was considered well done and closed without any problems
and there was a photo taken of this special day for our newsletter.
Approximately five years later a representative from the DOT called the
City and said that as far as the DOT grant, the project was never
closed out properly. I spoke to the City administrator and asked why
after so much time did the DOT say it was not complete? Was it
discovered through some in-house audit on their end? The administrator
said it probably was.
The Friends had hired Hugh McCauley to
administer the grant work (this is separate from his work as
architect.) The very complicated paper work involved with this did not
pass through the hands of the Friends because that was solely Mr.
McCauley’s responsibility. He wrote the grant for us, by the way, and
over the years committed more time and effort than he ever received
compensation for. Well, after receiving this communication from the
DOT, I informed them they would have to get in touch with our
architect. By this time however, Hugh was retired and had some serious
health issues. When the DOT contacted him though, they said they really
didn’t know what was missing in the closeout. The persons that we dealt
with at the DOT during the work had retired. So Hugh was perplexed -
just tell me what you need, he said. Finally, after weeks the DOT was
able to state what was missing. Because of his illness, his retirement,
the time that had gone by, and the fact that the DOT now had a new and
more complicated electronic filing/reporting program, Hugh was stalled
for many months, with his health starting to get worse again. The grant
writing company, Triad Associates (the president who is an old
associate of Hugh’s and a friend of mine and another board member) was
brought in to try to help to do some “forensic” work in tracking down
the missing items. They were finally successful. Triad’s fees to the
City was just several thousand dollars but because of the time lapse,
the City was not reimbursed the $17,000 in grant money.
The mayor complained about
this and said it may jeopardize future grants, but the Lighthouse,
having received $1.5 million in grants over the years, with great
success, awards and kudos to the work, helped the City’s grant
eligibility much more in the long run. At a meeting between the Mayor
and our trustees, I mentioned Hugh’s health being a factor in this
dilemma. The Mayor said, “I can’t worry about his personal problems”.
discovered that the City itself was in violation of its management
agreement with the Friends because for two or three years it neglected
to give the Friends organization $5,000 each year towards utility
costs as stated in the agreement. Our board of trustees forgave the
City for this debt, for the sake of good relations.