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New London salt pile to remain at least another month

The new executive director of the Connecticut Port Authority has again extended time for State Pier tenant DRVN Enterprises to remain in New London and attempt to sell its enormous pile of road salt.

Wethersfield-based DRVN, which has been importing salt to State Pier in New London for the past six years, signed an agreement with the port authority over the summer to move its salt by year’s end or forfeit it to the port authority. On Friday, new Connecticut Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw offered at least one extra month for the estimated 90,000 tons of salt to remain.

The CPA will consider a longer extension in January based on its construction schedule and how much salt is left on site. The port authority is similarly providing extra time for the two commercial fishing outfits working at State Pier as it seeks a new location for them.

DRVN owner Steve Farrelly has spent months seeking allies in his fight against displacement from State Pier as the Connecticut Port Authority gears up for a $157 million harbor redevelopment project to transform the pier into a hub for offshore wind turbine assembly. The project is a public-private partnership with joint venture partners Ørsted and Eversource and slated to start next year.

Over the summer, the head of the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments, whose membership includes 22 local municipalities, penned a letter to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to express concern over how difficult and costly it would be to procure salt if DRVN goes out of business.

Farrelly partially credits The Day columnist David Collins, a relentless critic of the Connecticut Port Authority, as a factor in the CPA’s latest extension. Collins has written a series of columns about DRVN’s plight and the scandals that had plagued the quasi-public agency last year.

Farrelly wrote a letter to Gov. Ned Lamont earlier this month asking for intervention and for use of the pier through the winter months when salt use peaks.

“This will allow us to stay in business, pay our creditors and alleviate the loss of jobs and any further damage to DRVN and many of its CT-based subcontractors and vendors who depend on the income we provide them throughout these winter months,” Farrelly wrote.

Farrelly said his wife read the letter aloud at the last Connecticut Port Authority meeting.

Connecticut Port Authority Board Chairman David Kooris said the CPA will formally vote on the extension at its Dec. 15 meeting.

“I think the CPA has demonstrated a continued willingness to accommodate DRVN as best as we’re able without compromising the redevelopment project, evidenced by multiple past extensions,” Kooris said.

In exchange for the expense of moving the location of its salt pile and equipment to accommodate work at State Pier earlier this year, the Connecticut Port Authority eliminated DRVN’s $12,000 per month rent at State Pier.

Kooris said once the CPA became aware of Farrelly’s latest request for an extension, the CPA worked with the state Department of Administrative Services and Office of Policy and Management to determine what could be accommodated within the redevelopment project timeline. Environmental remediation work is supposed to start at State Pier on Feb. 1.

DRVN, which has sold salt to dozens of municipalities and state subcontractors during its time in New London, has argued that it has been a factor in driving down road salt prices statewide.

“Winter weather that normally occurs December through March is conducive for strong salt sales,” Farrelly said in an email. “I believe with the strong support my customer base has displayed through these uncertain times DRVN will be successful in selling the salt with the extension of the winter months that lie ahead.”

g.smith@theday.com

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