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Costs Rise for Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum Restoration Projects

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By Tessa Raebeck

With the first phase of a three-part plan to renovate and restore the Sag Harbor Whaling and Historical Museum nearly complete, necessary additional repairs — and fundraising efforts — are on the rise.

Following complaints about the museum’s exterior appearance voiced to building inspector Tim Platt last May, restoration of the historic 1845 building, also the home of the Waponamon Lodge No. 437 Free Masons, began September 15.

“We can certainly say the scope of the project has grown,” Barbara Lobosco, president of the museum board, said Tuesday. “Like most planned undertakings, things crop up during the course of the project.”

The first phase of the plan covers the repairs and painting of the building exterior, including removal of 10 layers of paint — the last being lead.

The contractor, Ince Painting Professional of Westhampton Beach, which has worked on historic buildings like the Hannibal French House in Sag Harbor and the Topping Rose House in Bridgehampton, originally estimated the first phase of the project would cost $180,000.

More product removal was required than was originally allotted for and, at this point, the estimated cost for the first phase is closer to $260,000.

“With any project,” Lobosco said Tuesday, “what happens is you underestimate budgets and so on and so forth, other things open up that need to be fixed as well. When you work with an historic building of this age, new doors open up to new repairs.”

The actual application of the new paint is almost entirely completed. The museum is now in the midst of repairs to the porches and gutters, as well as partial repairs to the capital tops of the building columns.

The finials on the roof, which resemble blubber spades and whale teeth, are also undergoing restoration.

The building’s interior is covered by the second phase of the restoration project, which is not expected to begin for a year or so. Several issues have already materialized that necessitate projects the museum had planned to address in the future to be confronted within the next few months.

“We’d rather replace the pipes before they burst,” said Lobosco, referring to deteriorating, galvanized pipes in the basement that need to be restored.

Additionally, the entire basement must be cleaned.

“As we get inside the building,” said Lobosco. “We’ll need more [repairs] as well.”

The third phase of the capital campaign addresses repairs to the building grounds and will likely be implemented prior to the second phase of interior renovations.

“We want to finish the outside first so that it’s cohesive,” said Lobosco.

The museum plans to landscape the property before the summer, fix the front and back porches and repair the exterior fencing.

“The fence is going to be another big issue,” said Lobosco. “We’ve cleaned it up now, but it’s going to cost at least $60,000 just to repair.”

With continuous costs and essential repairs yet to be determined, the museum’s fundraising for the capital campaign is ongoing. Close to $180,000 in funding has been raised so far. The total cost is at present around $260,000, which will only cover the cost of painting. More funding is essential for the museum to move forward with the rest of the restoration process.

Last March, the museum’s fundraising efforts for the capital campaign kicked off with a $50,000 matching grant from the Century Arts Foundation earmarked towards the repair work. The Whaling Museum plans to host three fundraising events this holiday season, exhibit several beneficiary shows this spring and continually solicit private donations throughout the course of the project, according to Lobosco.

This Friday, the museum is hosting an auction at the Peter Marcelle Gallery in Bridgehampton. Available items include a 200-year-old woven basket, gift certificates to a variety of restaurants in Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor, donations from In Home and other local stores, and framed film posters from the 1960s and 1970s donated by the notable filmmaking couple Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker, who live down the street from the Whaling Museum. Value of auction items range from $50 to $1,000.

“We’ve been getting local donations which have been great,” said Lobosco. “The community’s been terrific, especially with the auction items. The merchants in town have been very supportive of the museum and our efforts to move forward.”

On December 23, the museum will raffle off a brand new 2013 Fiat 500 Cabrio Pop from Brown’s Fiat in Patchogue. The sleek, black convertible has red and ivory seats and an ivory and black interior. Just 350 tickets are for sale at $100 a piece.

To further aid with fundraising, BookHampton is sponsoring a holiday book sale on the museum’s front lawn on weekends throughout the holiday season. The store will match money raised “dollar for dollar,” said Lobosco.

With its interior closed for the winter, the museum plans to reopen for the season on Earth Day with a show by local artist and Pierson Middle/High School art teacher Peter Solow, with sales from his work also earmarked for the capital campaign.

At the official opening on Memorial Day, “a whale show” is going to be on display. Proceeds from the paintings will be split 50/50 between the artists and the restoration project. Funds raised via three additional shows during Summer 2014 will also go towards the restoration efforts. The exact content of the shows is unannounced at this point, but Lobosco said one show will consist of only Sag Harbor artists.

In addition to special events, the museum continues to raise funds through its mail drive and individual donations. Lobosco is also hopeful for another matching grant.

“It will be ongoing for years,” she said of the restoration projects, “so the fundraising efforts will continue.”

Preliminary Budget Eyed

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By Marissa Maier

The Sag Harbor Village Board of Trustees and the village department heads rolled up their sleeves last Friday, March 20, and pored over a tentative draft of the village budget for 2009 to 2010 totaling $7.4 million. The meeting was the first in a series the village will hold before finalizing the budget and hosting a public hearing.

Anticipating a budgetary shortfall in fall 2008, Sag Harbor Village Mayor Greg Ferraris asked each department to tighten their belts, avoid expensive and large purchases and “do more with less.”

Village treasurer Eileen Tuohy attributed the $215,000 shortfall to a decrease in non-real property tax revenue. Non-real property tax funds are collected from building permit receipts, dock slip receipts, state aid, and interest from the village savings account, among other sources. With interest rates at their lowest level in years, coupled with a decrease in dock receipts and rising contractual obligations, the village has been forced to economize.

Tuohy hopes continued austerity spending will help the village “break even” in the coming fiscal year. As the trustees analyzed the draft budget line-by-line, Ferraris said, “This is a pretty bare bones budget. We made cuts everywhere we could.”

Some village departments, like the police department and the highway department, are slashing spending through attrition. While Ed Downes, president of the Sag Harbor Ambulance Corps, is holding off on his long term goal of purchasing a third ambulance vehicle, he still must purchase new medical supplies every year.

In the building department, building inspector Tim Platt was able to decrease the overall budget for code enforcement, but said new costs will be incurred because New York State will no longer pay for new code books or training for code personnel. Trustee Tiffany Scarlato said monies paid by the building department for application consultant fees will now be paid out of the planning board and zoning board of appeals budget. In discussing additional costs, Ferraris added that a majority of the police department personnel are at the highest salary step.

Although he commended the departments for their work in paring down the budget, Ferraris said, “If there are items you really need tell us.”

For the fiscal year 2009 to 2010 the projected general fund budget is $7,444,557.68 and the projected tax rate is .002638 percent, although these figures and rates are subject to change. Under the current tax rate of .002605 percent, the owner of a home assessed at $1 million pays approximately $2,605 for village property taxes. If the budget were adopted as it currently stands today, the same homeowner would pay $2,638 in taxes.

“These numbers are subject to change. This is just a preliminary draft and more changes will be made [and presented] this Friday [March 27],” said Tuohy. “[The board] is working very hard to keep [the tax rate] at a very minimal increase.”

Tuohy added that the village fire department still has to present its budget to the board. The next meeting on the tentative budget will be held on Friday, March 27, at 4 p.m. in Sag Harbor Village Hall.

Sagaponack Village Budget

On Monday at Sagaponack Village Hall, the village board of trustees held a work session on their tentative budget, which mayor Don Louchheim presented last week during a regular monthly meeting.

The budget, proposed at $548,809, is just over $4,000 less than last year’s budget, which was $552,873.

A homeowner with a property assessed at $1 million can expect to pay $82.80 in taxes, down from $83.40 last year.

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 13, at 4 p.m.