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State Pier plan to be presented to Connecticut Port Authority board this month

The long-awaited redevelopment plan for State Pier will come before the Connecticut Port Authority's board at the end of this month.

Following about a year of negotiations, largely conducted behind closed doors apart from a public meeting held in September to unveil some of the details, the port authority's board is expected to vote on the so-called harbor development agreement at its Jan. 21 meeting in New London, said board Chairman David Kooris, a key player in the talks. The agreement will lay out the work that will be done as part of the $93 million public-private investment in the State Pier facility to allow it to be used by the emerging offshore wind industry.

Negotiations have gone on despite personnel changes at the port authority, including the resignation of its executive director and two board members, and scrutiny over the quasi-public agency's financial operations and management.

Those issues led to two marathon hearings convened by the General Assembly's Transportation Committee in August and December of 2019. The hearings followed an order from Gov. Ned Lamont directing the Office of Policy and Management to take a "direct and active" role in the financial decisions and direction of the port authority, which receives about $400,000 in state appropriations annually in addition to revenue from State Pier, which it controls. Among other actions, the office has hired an independent firm to evaluate the port authority's financial and management operations and practices. The firm prepared a report with its recommendations, which will be presented to the board at its Jan. 21 meeting.

State Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, who heads the transportation committee with state Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, said the committee will ensure the oversight put in place by the Lamont administration continues to be effective, and that there wouldn't be any further action until the new legislative session, which starts on Feb. 5.

"The Lamont administration has the correct measures in place to correct all the things that went wrong," Leone said by phone this week.

If those efforts fall short, then there would be an opportunity for the committee to intervene with additional oversight or new legislation, Leone said.

But state Sen. Henri Martin of Bristol, one of the committee's two Republican ranking members, said he hopes the committee introduces a bipartisan bill to help guide any future quasi-public agencies that are established in the state.

"I don't want to go through this again," Martin said.

Meanwhile, the Office of Policy and Management is compiling recommendations that will be included as part of Lamont's mid-term budget proposal to "enhance accountability and transparency" by the port authority.

The Lamont administration also is contemplating changes to the makeup of the board. Paul Mounds, chief operating officer for the state, said the governor's office is reviewing the status of all board members whose terms are currently up, but no determination has been made yet on what to do with those seats. The terms of two of four governor appointees on the board expired on Dec. 17, 2019. By statute, board members can serve until a replacement is named.

Kooris, who recently left his job as deputy commissioner of the state's Department of Community and Economic Development to head Stamford's Downtown Special Services District, was nominated this week by the governor to fill a seat vacated by Pam Elkow.

Elkow, an attorney based in Stamford who was appointed by former Gov. Dannel Malloy, resigned from the board on Jan. 1, due to her schedule not allowing her to fully participate as a member.

Kooris previously had served as an ex-officio member as the official designee of the DECD commissioner. He took over as chair in late July following the resignation of Bonnie Reemsnyder, who'd taken over for Scott Bates, who resigned from the board about a month later. Both of their seats remain vacant.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said Duff has picked someone to replace Bates but is not announcing who it is yet until the necessary paperwork is complete. Duff expects to announce his appointee next week.

Todd Murphy, spokesman for House Majority Leader Matt Ritter, D-Harford, who is responsible for appointing a replacement for Reemsnyder, said Ritter's office is working collaboratively with Lamont's staff to find "an individual that fits with the governor's vision for the authority going forward."

"We hope to announce an appointment in the next two weeks," Murphy said by email Friday afternoon.

Editor's Note: This version has been updated to reflect information about the House Majority Leader's appointee.


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