The Connecticut Port Authority could merge with the larger Connecticut Airport Authority, the former’s board Chair David Kooris said on Tuesday.
Kooris told the board during a special meeting that the Airport Authority may discuss merging the two quasi-public agencies together at its meeting on Wednesday.
“We’re in a very good fiscal position for the long term, but we remain a very small organization with a lot of obligations and a lot of regulatory regimes with which we need to comply,” Kooris said. “So I think there does still remain questions about the best structure for us over the long term.”
Kooris said he’s not endorsing the idea now, as many conversations need to happen and details worked out first. But there have been discussions over the years, he said, about the Port Authority partnering with the Airport Authority, which operates Bradley International Airport and the state-owned general aviation airports in Danielson, Groton, Hartford, Waterbury and Windham.
He said he didn’t have additional details to discuss, but wanted to mention the topic to the board ahead of the Airport Authority’s meeting this week.
“My understanding is this is just a very initial broaching to even see if there’s an appetite on their part to discuss it,” Kooris said. “At which point in time, we need to see if there’s an appetite on our part, and then have those conversations.”
He said this is the next step in a broader discussion about how to best structure the Port Authority going forward.
Work on the turbines for Eversource and Ørsted’s South Fork Wind project has begun at New London State Pier, and the Port Authority’s involvement in that project is winding down.
Founded in 2014, the quasi-public agency has faced intense scrutiny from lawmakers, Attorney General William Tong, and the State Contracting Standards Board in recent years over the pier’s redevelopment – in no small part because the cost of the project has ballooned from an initial estimate of $93 million to almost $310 million.
During the project, state agencies have stepped in to support the authority, including the state Department of Transportation loaning construction managers to assist with the pier construction. When the project ends next year, those responsibilities fall back to the Port Authority’s small staff.
At the same meeting, the board discussed creating a new position – a Maritime Business Development Manager – who would be in charge of marketing the state’s ports and harbors, and serve as the Port Authority’s marketing and communications officer, Interim Executive Director Ulysses Hammond said.
The Airport Authority has a much larger infrastructure than the Port Authority for handling all those responsibilities, Kooris said. He said the board has worked hard the past several years to establish “foundational” procedures and financial reporting that should have been in place from the start.
“Now we need to make a decision about what we can best do to maximize our success going forward,” Kooris said. “And this is just one option toward that aim, and we’ll hear what they have to say.”