Hereford Inlet Lighthouse
111 North Central Avenue
North Wildwood, New Jersey 08260
Dear Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse,
Our organization, the non-profit “Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse”,
is scheduled to be removed as stewards of 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
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
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 …..
Mayor Rosenello and Council
901 Atlantic Ave.
North Wildwood, New Jersey 08260
Please also send a copy to the State Historic Preservation Office
(this is very important)
Director Katherine Marcopul
NJ Historic Preservation Office
PO box 420
501 East State St. 4th floor
Trenton N.J. 08625-0420
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 email.
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
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 trying.
In regards to the Mayors charges against us.
Improper communications 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 cutters.
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.
Now, the 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 in.
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 employees
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 Lighthouse
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 driver.
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
These certificates 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
The Mayor 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”.
It was 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
Steve Steve Murray
Hope you c