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Little Gull goes to highest bidder

By Judy Benson

Publication: The Day

Published December 13. 2012 4:00AM
New London Maritime Society effort falls short; group hopes for input

Little Gull Island will pass out of federal government ownership into private hands in the next few weeks, when a closing takes place on the sale to the highest bidder in an online auction.

The General Services Administration, the federal agency in charge of the sale of the 1-acre island in eastern Long Island Sound, announced on Monday that Fred Plumb of Connecticut placed the high bid of $381,000 in the auction that took place in October. It would provide no further information about Plumb.

Around the time of the auction, emails were sent to the New London Maritime Society and the Connecticut Fund for the Environment - Save the Sound from a party who identified himself as one of the bidders. The sender's email address was: plumbpoint@hotmail.com, which is the personal email address of Fred Plumb, owner of Plumb Products machine tool company in Woodbury, according to a receptionist at the company.

Plumb did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday and Wednesday.

The island is one of several Coast Guard lighthouse properties being sold by the federal government. After the sale, the Coast Guard will retain an easement for access to and maintenance of the 1869 granite lighthouse, which has an automated navigation light and a horn that blasts every 15 seconds.

Patrick Sclafani, spokesman for the GSA, confirmed that the GSA will close on the sale to Plumb in the next few weeks, and that efforts by supporters of the New London Maritime Society were unsuccessful. More than 50 letters were sent to the GSA urging them to sell the island to the maritime society, which had raised $160,000 to purchase the island, instead of to the high bidder.

The society and its supporters argued that it would be better stewards of the historic lighthouse and would work with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to manage the island's shorebird habitat.

Susan Tamulevich, director of the maritime society, said she was disappointed but hopeful that her organization could work with Plumb.

"There are wonderful wealthy private individuals who are excellent stewards of the environment and preservation," she said. "It's good we made people aware of the value of this property. Little Gull Island is a very special place. I hope we can help Mr. Plumb."

In an email to the society after the auction closed, she said, Plumb wrote that he also loves the island. Leah Schmaltz, director of legislative and legal affairs for Connecticut Fund for the Environment - Save the Sound, said Plumb told her in an email message that he would be open to "sincere and honest proposals for partnerships."

j.benson@theday.com

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