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Pier remake could cost state three times $93 million estimate

Tuesday morning, Gov. Ned Lamont plans what I would have to call the most egregious overreach of executive power and assault on open public governing I've ever seen.

And I'm old.

It's hard to know exactly what will unfold at a special meeting today of the board of Lamont's stepchild, the corrupt and dysfunctional Connecticut Port Authority, because the governor, incredibly, won't disclose the deals he plans for them to vote on.

An agenda for the meeting posted late Friday afternoon suggests the board will vote on the still-secret deal to rebuild State Pier as a wind turbine assembly facility mostly closed to routine marine cargo, its historic purpose.

One of the few things we do know about the pending deal, because Port Authority Chairman David Kooris said so last month, is that it calls for the state to cover all cost overruns for the wind makeover, which the authority has been projecting at a baseline of $93 million.

I have obtained, though, from a source, an estimate (posted on the with this column) dated July 2, 2018, from Aecom, the giant multinational engineering firm, 157 on the 2019 Forbes 500 list, which gives a $349 million cost breakdown for dredging and structural improvements planned for the state's two piers in New London.

Dredging and channel improvements alone for the project would be $85 million, according to the Aecom estimates. Structural improvements to the piers and quays are estimated at $168 million. Just the pier utilities are estimated at $6.3 million. And on and on it goes, until you get to a grand total of $349 million.

And that's an 18-month old estimate, which of course doesn't include overruns.

That $349 million also doesn't include the millions extra it will cost to make new accommodations for Cross Sound Ferry. The port authority knows how much those are estimated to cost, too, but of course they won't tell us before Tuesday's meeting.

Wouldn't you think the Republicans would be outraged by the Democratic governor signing such an enormous blank check, all planned in secret.

I thought the Republicans cared about fiscal responsibility. Apparently, if it doesn't involve a toll gantry they could care less, even if it means underwriting a Danish conglomerate for a deal that will help make a lot of people rich.

Maybe the most alarming disclosure on the agenda posted Friday is "consideration and approval" of the "transfer of ownership of the New London State Pier from the Department of Transportation to the Connecticut Port Authority."

It's hard to imagine that the first mention of the governor's plan to turn over a strategic transportation asset to a dysfunctional quasi-public agency was in an agenda item for a hastily called special meeting.

The port authority has few employees, no executive director, a board beset by vacancies and is run by someone whose own hurried appointment was engineered to expire before the legislature can review it.

This same quasi-public agency, which is still paying tens of thousands of dollars to private lawyers to fight Freedom of Information requests aimed at uncovering more corruption, will own southeastern Connecticut's deep water port?

And the governor has decided to pull all this off in secret, all to the benefit of private investors? This is Connecticut run like a hedge fund.

Of course I fault the governor for such bold disregard of the principles of open and transparent government.

If these are all great policy and planning achievements, the right way to spend all that money, then why not lay it out in public for all to see, before a broken quasi-public agency, commandeered and run commando style by the governor, is made to gavel it into place.

I fault the governor, but more important I blame the cowardly legislators who are letting him do it. Shame on all of them.

This is the opinion of David Collins


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