East Lyme Selectmen Set Aside FEMA Funding As Contingency

The East Lyme Board of Selectmen voted to put the remaining FEMA funds from Hurricanes Irene and Sandy in a contingency fund on Wednesday evening, and left open the possibility that some of the funds could go towards purchasing body cameras for the East Lyme Police Department. 

There is $327,046.72 from the surprise $1.73 million in FEMA reimbursements East Lyme received in August for infrastructure repairs following the two damaging storms in 2011 and 2012. 

The town had already appropriated $203,560.89 of those FEMA funds as part of the $4.4 million Niantic Bay Boardwalk project that was approved in 2014. East Lyme voters last week approved using another $1.2 million of those funds towards the public safety building project after the Board of Finance voted against using the full $1.5 million remaining funds for that project.

Board members listed several priorities they wanted the leftover $327,000 to be used for, including maintenance of the boardwalk, purchasing body cameras for the police department and reimbursing COVID-related expenses for East Lyme Public Schools.

At the Wednesday meeting, First Selectman Mark Nickerson said that considering the uncertainty of town finances due to COVID, the funds should be set aside in the contingency fund so they can evaluate where it needs to be used as the year progresses, or roll it into next year’s budget.

“I think putting it away for sidewalk repairs is a nice idea, but this is, again, a year we might need that money for a need, not a desire or want,” Nickerson said.

Nickerson said using it for body cameras is an option, and is something that is going to come up this year, but there isn’t an exact number yet of what that will cost. When the police do come to ask for funding for body cameras to fulfill requirements of the state police accountability laws passed in July, the board can consider their request then, he said.

Selectman Paul Dagle said he thought all of the finance board’s ideas had merit, but that putting the money aside until there is a better understanding of what they will need to spend it on is the prudent idea.

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