An 800-pound piece of construction equipment was stolen from a barge set up for the repairs to the Huntington Lighthouse, the president of the Huntington Lighthouse Preservation Society said.
The society owns the 1912 structure at the junction of Huntington Harbor and Lloyd Harbor, where repairs are being made. The missing equipment was to be used in work to restore the foundation.
Society President Pam Setchell said the equipment — a pile grapple with a bracket — had been in place late in the day on March 24 and was discovered missing on March 27.
“This is not a piece of equipment that will roll off the barge in the wind,” Setchell said. “This thing doesn’t move.”
She said just to make sure the equipment had not simply fallen off the barge, divers over the past week looked under the barge and in a wide circle around it searching for the piece, even using a magnet to search beneath the sand. The only thing that surfaced was a boat hook and chair, Setchell said.
A pile grapple is an apparatus that is able to lift piles, rotate them and place them in position, Setchell said. It costs about $16,000, she said.
Frank Scobbo, owner of Port Washington-based Scobbo Contractors and the repair project contractor, said the theft of such a large piece can be done surprisingly easily.
“You can come in with a small boat with a crane on it or some kind of hoist, lift it up and be gone within 90 seconds,” he said.
Setchell said the missing equipment represented the fourth act of theft or vandalism against the contractor at the site since September. She said a work dock used in connection with the repair was stolen, smaller pieces of equipment from the barge have gone missing, a 22-foot boat was sunk, and now the pile grapple is gone.
“It appears as though we are being targeted,” Setchell said. “Too many mysterious things happening to people associated with this project.”
Scobbo said workers were going to get back to work next week after a weather-related break and had planned to use the now-missing piece.
“We have other work that we can do,” Scobbo said. “But this will cause a delay because we have to replace the piece, and part of it is custom made.”
Suffolk County police went to the barge and toured around the lighthouse Wednesday. Anyone with information about any of the thefts or damage is asked to call police at (631) 854-8252, Setchell said.
The lighthouse was slated to be torn down in 1984 and replaced with a steel tower. But area residents organized efforts to preserve the structure. It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.
In July Scobbo contractors started placing barges and cranes at the lighthouse to begin renovation of the 32-by-32-foot foundation. The project, expected to cost between $800,000 and $1 million, was supposed to be completed by the end of last year but various delays pushed the completion date to sometime this summer. The project is being paid for through a combination of fundraising and grants.
“We’re going to keep going,” Setchell said. “This a temporary delay.”