Connecticut Port Authority working to bring State Pier project on budget
New London — A state official involved in planning for the reconstruction project at State Pier in New London says efforts are underway to keep the project on budget.
Kosta Diamantis, deputy secretary for the Office of Policy and Management, addressed the Connecticut Port Authority this week and fielded questions about the possibility of costs escalating for the $157 million project, which is being funded through a partnership by the state and joint venture partners Eversource and Ørsted.
State Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, was among those to question statements made by Gov. Ned Lamont to The Day’s editorial board earlier this month that the cost of the project had risen above $200 million. Formica also wanted clarification on whether the state was on the hook for cost overruns.
Diamantis said the initial design phase is nearing completion and while estimates are above $157 million, there are sure to be revisions as the process moves forward.
“At the end of the day it’s the owners' responsibility, through the various consultants, to sit down with them and taper where this project needs to be for the purposes imagined by the owners,” Diamantis said. “We’re still in the estimating phase. There’s nothing definitive at this point.”
He said upcoming meetings with the construction manager will better separate what is essential versus what is wanted for the project. OPM was tasked by Lamont with financial oversight of the port authority in 2019, a tumultuous year for the quasi-public agency that included the resignation of its former executive director, a financial audit that revealed questionable accounting and spending habits and legislative hearings.
Diamantis, who is also the director of the Office of School Construction Grants and Review of the state Department of Administrative Services, said the project is not unlike a school construction project where architects and engineers include elements and amenities that can lead to cost overruns.
David Kooris, chairman of the Connecticut Port Authority's board of directors, reiterated that the CPA is working with construction manager Kiewit to “hone the scope of the project to bring it in line with costs estimates in earlier iterations of this design.”
The original estimate for the project was $93 million but by the time a deal was signed, the cost had risen because of alterations made to the design to better accommodate Cross Sound Ferry’s concerns about interference in its waterfront operations. Ørsted and Eversource have committed $77.5 million and the state and port authority the remainder.
“We are in the midst of an in-depth process to bring the project in line with the funds available,” Kooris said. “A lot of people have their sleeves rolled up and are working on it. The idea that there is a new dollar amount is not accurate. There are estimates that continue to be developed.”
Kooris said if the project does exceed $157 million, the Harbor Development Agreement puts the onus on the CPA to seek additional funding from the state. If the state refuses, the CPA is likely to go to Eversource and Ørsted to help fill the gap. If they elect not to add additional funds, Kooris said further efforts will be made revise the scope of the project to get it in line with available funds.
Board member John Johnson promised full transparency as the project estimates come to light.
Meanwhile, CPA Executive Director John Henshaw reported this week that cleanup of the site in preparation for construction is expected to get underway by mid-February. He said Kiewit has expressed its desire to be on site by March.
The port authority on Tuesday approved a new extension to State Pier tenants, including road salt company DRVN.
DRVN, whose massive pile of salt remains at State Pier, will have an extra month to continue to sell its product. A previous extension had given the company until the end of January to sell the salt or forfeit it to the CPA in order to make way for upcoming construction; it now has until the end of February.
“It’s obviously in everyone’s interest to see DRVN successful in selling that salt,” Henshaw said.
Commercial fishermen and Skanska, the construction company using the pier as a staging area for work across the river at Electric Boat, also will have additional time.
Plans for State Pier to become a staging area for the offshore wind industry involve an expansion to allow the pier to handle larger vessels and heavy-lift cargo. The plans also call for filling in the area between the two existing piers to create additional storage space and will result in three berths.
Ørsted and Eversource will lease the pier from pier operator Gateway for a minimum of 10 years to use the facility for the pre-assembly of wind turbine generators. Ørsted and Eversource plan to use State Pier to support their planned 704 megawatt offshore wind farm, Revolution Wind, and other projects in the planning stages across the Northeast.
The projects await approval by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Kiewit, construction manager for the State Pier project, is holding a virtual project information session on Jan. 28 to provide an update on the project and advertise procurement opportunities. For more information, visit the event webpage, bit.ly/kstatepier1.
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