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Connecticut Port Authority picks engineering firm to oversee State Pier project

The board of the Connecticut Port Authority picked an engineering firm to help oversee the $157 million redevelopment of State Pier into a wind turbine staging area, during a special meeting Tuesday.

At the meeting, which was held virtually, the board agreed to enter into a $4,191,572 contract with AECOM to act as its agent for the State Pier redevelopment, reviewing all aspects of the project. The contract, once signed by both parties, which is expected to happen in the coming days, will be effective until February 2023.

The board previously agreed to a contract with AECOM for permitting and predevelopment work at State Pier, which is ongoing and includes hazardous materials abatement, excavation, building demolition, test borings and other site preparation work. The port authority is expecting to have the major permits associated with the project in hand later this year or in early 2021, said David Kooris, interim chairman of the port authority’s board.

Tenants at State Pier, including two commercial fishing outfits and a salt distribution company, are being displaced to make way for the start of construction, and longshoremen who unloaded and loaded cargo from vessels docked at the pier were laid off. The eight longshoremen who were employed full time were offered work with Carpenters Local 326.

Under agreements with Gateway, the pier operator, the tenants have until July 31 to vacate the site. The agreement between Gateway and DRVN Enterprises, a major local road salt distributor, stipulated that the company had the ability to sell up to 20,000 tons of salt to Gateway before it departs the pier.

“I think the expectation was depending on DRVN’s relocation or subsequent business plan, they may have some salt at the end of the term that they may elect to get rid of,” Kooris said.

Instead of waiting until July, DRVN chose to sell the salt earlier this year, which Gateway purchased for $800,000, after the company determined it did not have room for a shipment of salt coming by a boat that was set to dock at the pier. The port authority reimbursed Gateway for the purchase.

The salt vessel was diverted to the port of New Haven, which Gateway also operates, and is being stored there until it is sold.

On Tuesday, the port authority's board agreed to various terms to allow Gateway to store and sell the salt incrementally over a period of several years. Gateway will not charge the port authority to store the salt but will document costs incurred and will recoup that in the sales price, Kooris said.

“The salt is not designed to be flooded in the market. It's not designed to be sold over a loss,” Kooris said. “It will be sold incrementally over time, enabling the $800,000 to be recouped.”

“Frankly we didn’t intend to own salt. We didn’t intend to be in this business over the coming years, but I think it was the right thing to do to support DRVN and provide them the revenue to enable the salt to be diverted because they couldn’t accommodate it in their area,” Kooris said.

Requests for comment from DRVN were not immediately returned.

Steve Farrelly, owner of DRVN, said at a June 17 meeting of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments that he still has 90,000 tons of inventory left at the State Pier. He said the port authority has offered “subpar” options but did not elaborate. Following the meeting, Mark Nickerson, first selectman of East Lyme and chairman of the council of governments, sent a letter to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, saying many local towns are concerned about how costly and difficult it will be to procure road salt if DRVN shuts down.

The $800,000 for the salt plus other “wind-down costs” associated with DRVN’s departure from State Pier are both factored into the $157 million cost of the redevelopment project. Under the agreement that governs the project, the port authority pays for all wind-down costs.

Revenue from the sale of salt will go back into the escrow account that funds the redevelopment project.

Separately, the port authority is seeking to find a new home for the soon-to-be-displaced commercial fishermen at State Pier.

j.bergman@theday.com

Editor's Note: This version clarifies that DRVN sold the salt to pier operator Gateway purchased for $800,000, and the port authority reimbursed Gateway for the purchase.

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