CANDIA — During Wednesday night’s Budget Committee meeting, the committee decided to maintain the Office of Emergency Management’s approximate $3,000 budget proposed for next year after hearing pleas from selectmen, the road agent and the director of Emergency Management not to cut it.
Robert Panit, who has been the director of Emergency Management since 1998, couldn’t attend the meeting, but wrote a letter for the committee that was read aloud by selectman and budget committee liaison Carleton Robie.
In response to a question asking why the line item couldn’t be reduced to $1, Panit wrote: “I can not express enough how much I disapprove of this approach to try to budget for unforeseen disaster planning. There is absolutely no way anyone can predict the potential or severity of natural or manmade disasters.”
Dennis Lewis told the Budget Committee that maintaining some money in the emergency budget would be a wise decision, because without any money in the budget, Panit would have to get authorization before he could spend any money during an emergency.
“Things don’t go wrong when you want them to, it happens in the middle of the night. Give (Panit) something, because while I know $3,000 will never be enough in a real emergency, it might buy some time until he gets permission to overspend his budget line,” Lewis said.
Some Budget Committee members expressed concern that very little money seems to be expended from the emergency budget line, which to date has only had about $70 in expenditures from this year’s approximate $3,000 budget.
“It seems nothing ever gets expended out of this budget,” Budget Committee member Carla Penfield said during the meeting.
Robie told the committee that he is very happy with the job that Panit has done as Emergency Management director, specifically when it comes to helping the town get reimbursed by the federal government for expenditures during emergencies and disasters.
“He is very important in getting that done, and keep in mind he is a volunteer,” Robie said.
Despite being appeased regarding the emergency budget and Panit’s importance, Penfield expressed frustration that it took so long for her questions to be answered.
“Someone should have told us all this when we have been asking for the last four years, because this is the first that I have heard of it,” Penfield said.
Robie said after the meeting that he is glad any confusion on the committee about the emergency budget line or Panit has been cleared up.
I think (the budget meeting Wednesday night) showed how important (Panit) is, and I think the Budget Committee is better informed of what he does because of last night’s meeting than maybe they were in years past,” Robie said.