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    Tuesday, December 06, 2022

    OPINION: Lamont should listen to Stefanowski on State Pier overruns

    It sure seems like there is no end in sight to the ever-climbing costs of Ned Lamont’s State Pier folly, with cost estimates long spiraling out of control, from $93 million to more than $250 million.

    The latest price disclosures came shortly before polls opened last week in the gubernatorial race, with the Connecticut Port Authority pulling another $7 million out of the sofa cushions — even borrowing against future lease payments — and declaring it has essentially spent all the borrowed money the state has committed so far.

    Authority Chairman David Kooris even acknowledged on the eve of the election that the project may continue to hit problems. Imagine the huge new increases we might expect to hear about, now that the voting is over.

    Kooris, fresh from a port-authority-funded junket to Europe, along with representatives of the rich utilities for whom State Pier is being expensively remodeled, admitted the problems and delays continue.

    Indeed, when the State Bond Commission approved a “final” $20 million bucket of pier funding in May, Kooris acquiesced when state Rep. Holly Cheeseman asked Kooris if we can accept “on the lives of those near and dear to you” that the bond commission won’t be asked for more money.

    Saying his daughters wouldn’t be happy with him using their names, Kooris said yes.

    "The short answer is the project will be completed before the legislature even comes back in session next year, in early 2023, and we don't have any further authorizations, and so this is the final tranche of funding,” he told the commission in May.

    And now, after producing its last $7 million from voodoo budgeting, announced in October, the authority seems poised to possibly ask for more.

    This is where Gov. Ned Lamont — if for no other reason than to spare Kooris’ daughters from their father’s unfortunate pledge — should take up the suggestion his opponent, Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Stefanowski, made on the campaign trail.

    Renegotiate the deal, Stefanowski said. Letting state taxpayers continue to absorb tens of millions of dollars of overruns for a project that will benefit rich utilities, as they plan to charge electric customers more for wind-generated power, is obscene.

    Lamont has been a wimp all along in dealing with the utilities on this deal, starting with the way he was going to let them stiff New London taxpayers until city Mayor Michael Passero moved on a threat with lawyers to obtain a host deal.

    The governor will need to show some backbone here to protect state taxpayers and make the utilities pay more of their share, even just to save the Kooris children.

    d.collins@theday.com

    This is the opinion of David Collins

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