NORTH WILDWOOD — A lawsuit between the city and the former nonprofit that ran the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse was dropped in Cape May County Superior Court last week, leaving the lighthouse under the city’s control.

Steve Murray, chairman of the Friends of the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse, said Tuesday they could not afford to keep the lawsuit going.

“We decided to drop the lawsuit because we can’t compete with the city,” Murray said. “We have limited funds with the nonprofit, and we want to donate that money to other lighthouses instead of spending it all on legal fees.”

Mayor Patrick Rosenello could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Murray will have no role with the lighthouse moving forward. His voice cracked when he described his 32-year tenure there.

“That building is part of me. I never thought in a million years that this would happen,” he said. “This was a punch in the gut that nobody expected.”

Paul Difilippo, who worked with Murray at the lighthouse for about three decades, said Tuesday he was too upset to talk about what happened.

The issue of who runs the lighthouse stretches back to last year.

Rosenello had claimed the nonprofit was not turning in annual reports to the city and bungled a state Department of Transportation grant application that cost the city $17,000, according to previous reports.

Rosenello also said Murray was reportedly rude to city employees.

Murray disputed the claims, saying he once got angry at a city employee who parked a truck on top of personalized brick pavers, causing some to sink.

In an interview with The Press last year, Murray said he went “ballistic” when he saw the truck parked on the pavers because they cost more than $100,000 to install.

As for the grant, Murray said the DOT came back to the Friends of Hereford Inlet Lighthouse five years after the grant application was written and claimed the nonprofit made a mistake in the paperwork. By that time, the man who had written the application was retired and dealing with serious health issues, according to earlier Press reports.

Murray said the nonprofit hired a new organization to fix the application issue, but by that time, the state had not given the city $17,000 in grant money for the lighthouse.

Rosenello has said there is no record at City Hall that the annual reports were received.

The squabble led to the city taking control of the lighthouse in January. City employees changed the locks on the lighthouse so the Friends, who ran it as a third party, could not get back in.

The remaining issue between the Friends and the city is giving back personal property that belongs to members of the nonprofit.

The Friends, about 600 members in total, loaned the lighthouse personal property to decorate it.

“It’s going to be pretty empty in there without that stuff,” Murray said, adding he is going to encourage people to visit the East Point Lighthouse in Cumberland County.

Meanwhile, the Hereford Inlet Lighthouse reopened this spring on weekends and will be open every day to visitors this summer.

Contact: 609-272-7260 JDeRosier@pressofac.com Twitter @ACPressDeRosier

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