EAST LYME – Town residents in a voice vote approved $200,000 of the town’s federal COVID relief money to replace the roof on the new public safety building during a town meeting on Wednesday night.
It was the third time East Lyme residents have approved funding to renovate the former Honeywell office building into a public safety complex. Town voters first approved bonding $5 million in 2019. Last October, they approved bonding another $985,000 and $1.2 million in delayed FEMA payments to cover a $2.2 million gap in funding for the project.
The $200,000 to replace a roof that has started leaking into what is supposed to be the IT room at the new complex will come from the town’s $5.4 million allocation from the American Rescue Plan Act.
First Selectman Mark Nickerson said the project, while not perfect, made sense as a solution to a “decades-old problem” of inadequate facilities for the East Lyme Police Department, Fire Department, and emergency operations center.
“We can bicker back and forth all night on the project, we have for years, but the bottom line is, we have an outstanding facility, we’re on the cusp of moving in,” Nickerson said. “The building’s roof being updated now, and using federal funds, is the right thing to do. And we could blessedly move on from this 30-year discussion.”
Camille Alberti, chair of the Board of Finance and the Democratic candidate for first selectman, called for a two to three week pause to conduct a “floor-to-ceiling” inspection of the building and to get additional bids for the roof replacement.
“The abject refusals over the past couple of years to get a complete inspection on this building by an outside, licensed contractor – it leaves me befuddled to say the least,” Alberti said. “The refusal to pay a couple thousand dollars on a proper inspection has led to a $30,000 bill for patching and repairing, sealing leaks over the last year. This is an absolute waste of taxpayer money.”
William Cornelius, the clerk of works for the public safety building project, called the idea that a full inspection of the roof was possible for a couple thousand dollars “absolutely insane.” He said the roof was a part of the public safety building project, and should not be put out to bid separately.