Legislators Seek Answers To Connecticut Port Authority Questions
New London Day, January 11, 2021
By Greg Smith
State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, has joined local legislators to present a bill to the state legislature seeking answers to lingering questions she says continue to swirl around the Connecticut Port Authority.
Should the city of New London continue to expect state funding through the Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT, program now that State Pier is property of the Connecticut Port Authority? Is the port authority board addressing the concerns of small ports like Norwich? Has the port authority analyzed projected job losses versus gains as the result of the $157 million transformation of State Pier into an offshore wind hub?
“This is just the beginning of a process to get some answers,” Osten said. “What we’re trying to do is provide people with facts. We have a project that could be great or not so great ... but we need to answer these questions for our constituents."
Osten said she has worked with state Sen. Norm Needleman, D-Essex, and state Reps. Anthony Nolan, D-New London; Christine Conley, D-Groton; and Joe De la Cruz, D-Groton, on legislation that she expects will head to the Transportation Committee for consideration in the coming weeks.
“The biggest thing is more transparency,” Nolan said.
The bill would seek:
A review of PILOT funding in comparison to other quasi-public agencies.
An explanation of Connecticut Port Authority board membership concerning small ports and host community representation.
An update on small port projects and bond funding.
An analysis of the net new jobs at State Pier compared to current job losses.
Quarterly reporting by the port authority on things like reports on requests for proposals and contracts, status on port upgrades and status of negotiations with current tenants.
“Questions keep coming up over and over again,” Osten said. “What we’re trying to do is get to the bottom of what the problem is and resolve the issues ... answers for both the city of New London and the region.”
“It would make us a little more comfortable if we could come up with an analysis to get out to constituents and answer the questions and stop the concerns from the region that we’re being taken advantage (of) by larger corporations,” she said.
New London concerns back to top
New London Mayor Michael Passero has continued to voice concerns about a major project commencing in the city on tax-exempt land without the city receiving fair compensation as the host community. The harbor redevelopment project is funded through an agreement with Eversource and Danish wind company Ørsted. Outside of the state agreement, Passero is involved in stalled talks with Ørsted/ Eversource over a host community agreement.
Passero additionally has sought representation on the port authority’s board of directors, something he said was promised two years ago. Nolan said past legislation to gain a seat for a representative from New London failed to gain traction but he is working with local legislators to present a proposal again during this legislative session.
Passero said Saturday that he welcomes any legislation regarding transparency of the port authority and said he is planning a series of meetings on his own with state legislators that include state Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme.
“It’s great that the legislators share the frustration I have with this secret organization,” Passero said of the proposed bill. “They should be in our shoes. We’re being cut out of any of the tax revenues.”
Osten was among legislators calling for hearings in 2019 to explore the Connecticut Port Authority's questionable contracts, employments decisions and apparent lack of financial controls that led to an audit and state oversight.
David Kooris, chairman of the Connecticut Port Authority board of directors, said he couldn't comment on a bill he has not seen. "Regarding confidence in the CPA, the legislature should rest assured that we've been working closely with (the state Office of Policy and Management) since 2019 to address the limited substantive issues that emerged from audits conducted last year," he said in an email.
He said updates of the State Pier project, shared with OPM and state Department of Administrative Services, occur at the board's regular meetings.