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    Saturday, April 20, 2024

    Prospect raised of Port Authority partnering with state airport agency

    Aerial view of wind turbine parts at State Pier in New London on Thursday, August 31, 2023. (Peter Huoppi/The Day)
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    The Connecticut Port Authority’s future as an independent agency was raised Tuesday during a special board of directors’ meeting in which the possibility of partnering with the Connecticut Airport Authority was raised.

    That conversation came a day before the CAA was slated to discuss the issue at its own board meeting.

    David Kooris, executive director of the port authority board of directors, said while the authority is on solid financial footing it still “remains a very small organization” that needs to consider it long-term prospects.

    “One option that has been discussed is a partnership with the airport authority, which has a larger infrastructure,” he said, adding he raised the subject in anticipation of the CAA preparing to discuss the issue Wednesday.

    Kooris said he had no details on how such a partnership would work or even if it might happen.

    “This is a very initial broaching to see if there’s an appetite (for the idea with the CAA),” he said. “And then if there’s an appetite for it here.”

    The port authority is overseeing a $300 million upgrade aimed at transforming its State Pier terminal in New London into an offshore wind component staging and assembly site.

    The Connecticut Port Authority was created in 2014 to manage ports previously under the management of the state Department of Transportation. It took ownership of State Pier in 2016.

    The CAA, a quasi-public agency formed in 2011, is responsible for overseeing operations at Hartford’s Bradley International Airport and the state’s five general aviation airports: Danielson, Groton-New London, Hartford-Brainard, Waterbury-Oxford and Windham.

    The CAA’s approximately 160 direct employees far outstrip the port authority's handful of paid staff members.

    The CAA board of directors consists of 11 members, including Chairman Tony Sheridan, the president and chief executive officer of the Chamber of Commerce of Eastern Connecticut.

    CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon said Wednesday’s port authority discussion about a merger was prompted by conversations with the state Office of Policy and Management.

    “This is a quick notification to our board that these conversations are happening,” Dillon said. “There’re no details, no plans at this point; we’re exploring any potential synergy between the two groups.”

    Dillon said there is precedent for such a potential collaboration between two agencies. He said the port authorities in New York and New Jersey are responsible for oversight of their respective state’s bridges, tunnels, airports and ports.

    “Whether we do anything as elevated as that here remains to be seen,” he said.

    j.penney@theday.com

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