By its own admission, the city of Menominee agrees the lighthouse is in desperate need of a paint job. Large portions of red paint have peeled away leaving bare metal exposed. According to an agreement with the federal government, the city is responsible for maintaining the iconic structure. EagleHerald/Mike Desotell
By its own admission, the city of Menominee agrees the lighthouse is in desperate need of a paint job. Large portions of red paint have peeled away leaving bare metal exposed. According to an agreement with the federal government, the city is responsible for maintaining the iconic structure. EagleHerald/Mike Desotell
MENOMINEE - The symbol synonymous with the city of Menominee is not getting the attention it deserves when it comes to maintenance. Mayor Jean Stegeman said she's been receiving phone calls and e-mails from people telling her that the paint on the lighthouse is peeling off in sheets.

"The city manager and I have talked about this on a couple of occasions in the past, but I think we need to get the council involved to get a plan in place on what we're going to do with this," she told members of the Parks & Recreation/Buildings & Grounds Committee Monday.

In 2008, the city was granted the deed to the lighthouse by the U.S. Administrator of General Services with the understanding the city would perform certain functions.

According to terms outlined in a quitclaim deed, the city is supposed to "make the historic light station available for education, park, recreation, cultural or historic preservations purposes for the general public at reasonable times and under reasonable conditions." It's been nearly five years and that hasn't happened yet.

Some other deed infractions include failure to put up a sign acknowledging the lighthouse was donated by the U.S. government for public, educational and historic preservation uses. It was supposed to go up within three months of receiving the deed. The city is also responsible for maintenance, yet a local resident has taken it upon himself to paint the iconic structure numerous times to keep it from slipping into decay.

"It's something we need to take care of and I know nobody wants to spend money on it but we can't let it sit there and rust," said Stegeman.

Committee member Bill Plemel recalled that under former City Manager Richard Goode, the cost for conducting a study on the lighthouse and necessary repairs would cost $25,000.

"At that time the council said you could probably buy a new one for less than that," said Plemel. "So that kind of fell through the cracks at that time."

Plemel said it may be time to revisit the matter.

"I know the previous council did not want to spend any money on this," said Stegeman, who added that a group similar to the Marina Management Group could possibly be put in place to oversee its operation.

"I know there are people who live out of town, native to Menominee, who would be happy to donate money," said the mayor. "I do think this is a tourism opportunity. It would require, obviously, a group being formed and a contract with the city to manage it, but I do think we have to move off of dead center and do something with it."

City Manager Michael Cramer said he, himself, had several people requesting the city maintain it as part of a capital improvement project.

"My question on it is, what are you looking to do as a council and what would you like us to go and support as staff in trying to build this?"

Stegeman said she felt overseeing the lighthouse could come under economic development and tourism. She noted that it's not unusual for people to travel the Great Lakes on lighthouse tours. In October of 2008, the lighthouse was opened for free public tours when the USCGC Mackinaw was docked along the pier as part of a U.S. Coast Guard promotion. Both venues were big hits with residents.

"In the times that I have been in the lighthouse, sweeping up when the Mackinaw was in town, people were sprinting down that pier to get to see the inside of that lighthouse - people who have lived here their entire lives and were just itching at the chance to get in there and look at it."

Cramer said he and City Attorney Rob Jamo would take a closer look at what the city agreed to when it took possession of the lighthouse. He said it's possible he could put a call out for residents and organizations to become part of a lighthouse citizen committee. In the meantime, he said he'd look into options for providing short-term maintenance on the lighthouse.