Letter: Missing Building Inspection Raises Questions in East Lyme

in Letters/Public Safety

Time for me to step out.  I had hoped The Day would do the right thing in East Lyme’s First Selectman race and give the nod to Camille Alberti.  But their endorsement, albeit very weak, went to Mark Nickerson, “despite his missteps.”  Incumbents really do have the advantage, regardless of performance, don’t they?

My name is Lisa Picarazzi and I am the vice chair of the Board of Finance (BOF) and a member of the Public Safety Building Vision Committee (PSB).  I was appointed to this committee to ensure YOUR tax dollars are not mismanaged.  Sorry to tell you all, the horse is out of the barn.

The BOF had been requesting a copy of the building inspection report of the Honeywell property since our January 23, 2019 meeting, at which the project was presented. I personally requested a copy from our Town Finance Director, Anna Johnson, and was told she doesn’t have one. Our PSB Chairman, Paul Dagle, doesn’t have one.  Silver and Petrucelli (S/P), the project A/E, hasn’t seen one. 

This is a multi-million dollar purchase using taxpayer funds. Nobody in their right mind would be so negligent as to not inspect an office building before purchase, right?  Especially when spending other people’s money. I mean, most of us have bought our own houses.  Don’t we all use common sense and have a home inspection conducted?  If, for example, the roof on this house (that we love) has almost no life left in it, don’t we leverage that deficiency by offering a lower purchase price?  Not rocket science, right?

We kept getting stonewalled by our First Selectman after numerous attempts including emails and phone calls.  Finally, just this past week, I received an email response from Nickerson stating that “he and Paul (Dagle) will decide what information the PSB Committee needs.” Can you imagine such arrogance on the part of a municipal leader?  Makes me wonder, if maybe, an inspection was never conducted.  But that couldn’t be, could it?

Mary Biekert, a reporter from The Day, issued an Freedom of Information request to the First Selectman weeks ago, requesting copies of the inspection reports.  After much pressure, Nickerson finally told her yesterday, November 1, that a few town employees inspected the building and assured him the “building was in good condition.”  We now have the truth.  The Taxpayers bought a $2.8 million building based on “assurances,” and without having a comprehensive inspection performed and the findings detailed in a formal report. 

Why is a formal inspection so important?  Because the existing roof — the ORIGINAL roof — is beyond its useful life.  But I guess that wasn’t an important consideration when we bought it. Typically, roofs are designed for 30 years.  This one is 33 years old. The architect recommended we find funds to REPAIR it until we can afford the replacement cost of $372,000. (Such a deal!) The air handling units on the roof are also original. One is close to end-of-life and the other MAY last five years.  Their replacement cost? $190,000.  So, before a hammer is lifted, the taxpayers are out OVER $562,000.

Of course, this overspending does not include a number of other improvements required over the next several years, such as proper egress from the building.  The current driveway in and out is in a flood zone, and a new road should be built to allow for quick response times in an emergency situation.  The problem?  The road would have to be built over land the Town does not own, which means either we can request an easement, or take the property by eminent domain, as suggested by Nickerson.  Can anybody say legal fees?! 

Additionally, the infrastructure does not exist to connect the building to town water, a preferred method to supply water pressure for fire suppression systems.  While not guaranteed, waivers to structural upgrades to the building, as required by state regulations, are now being sought to bring the project within budget.  This is blatant disregard for the rules and regulations that keep our community safe!

Let me also point out that the BOF was right to withhold $1,000,000 from the appropriation request, because we now understand that the holding cells and sally port are estimated to cost $677,673. Or…are we cutting corners here also?

What’s especially offensive, is that Nickerson knows what his missteps have been on this project, but he is unwilling to come clean. Why else would he refuse to take my calls?  He’s hoping it’ll all blow over until after election day. Is this the kind of transparency we want from our First Selectman? Makes you wonder what else has been covered up.

Lisa Picarazzi
Vice Chair for Board of Finance
PSB Vision Committee Member
Town of East Lyme


East Lyme Selectman Paul Dagle responds here.