EAST LYME — The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to approve an additional $985,000 in bonding to fund renovations of the public safety building in their regular meeting Wednesday night.
The additional funding would bring the total amount of money borrowed for the project to $5.98 million, with the remainder of the $7.2 million cost paid for by FEMA disaster relief funds for Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy received in August.
The Board of Finance will decide whether to approve the additional bonding in a special meeting on Thursday night. If approved, the spending would then go to a referendum to be held at the East Lyme Community Center on Oct. 1, explained First Selectman Mark Nickerson.
That vote will be conducted in-person and with curbside voting. There will also be absentee ballots available at the town clerk’s office between Sept. 25 and Oct. 1 for anyone who will be out of town or unable to vote on Oct. 1, said Nickerson.
He said that the Oct. 1 deadline is necessary, because the town registrars will be too busy preparing for the presidential election starting on Oct. 2.
Last week, the Board of Finance voted 3-3 to reject the selectmen’s request to use all of the $1.5 million remaining from the unexpected FEMA funds to fill part of the $2.2 million funding gap between the $7.2 million estimated cost of the project and the $5 million East Lyme voters already approved to bond.
The board instead approved having the town spend $1.2 million of the FEMA funds on the public safety building, leaving $985,000 of the project still unfunded. Board members who opposed using the full amount of FEMA funds cited other ways it could be spent, including maintenance of the Niantic Bay Boardwalk, body cameras for the police department and COVID costs for the schools.
Nickerson said Wednesday that the Board of Selectmen would discuss what to do with the remaining FEMA funds at a later date.The town purchased the Honeywell office building at 277 W. Main St. in May 2019 for $2.8 million, part of a $5 million bond East Lyme voters approved in Feb. 2019. The plan for renovations exceeded the remaining bond funds by $2.17 million. In July, the finance board voted 3-3 against asking voters to approve additional bonding to cover that entire gap.