Board of Connecticut Port Authority nominates Stonington's Bates as its chairman

Hartford — The board of the Connecticut Port Authority, established in 2014 to develop and market the state's ports and promote its maritime economy, met for the first time Monday and nominated Stonington resident Scott Bates as its chairman.

State law requires that the board develop a maritime strategy for Connecticut. Before that happens, Bates said he "pledges to meet with each of you in your hometowns with people you designate as people to talk with and learn from. I'll also go to every port in the state and listen to local officials to build a constituency for the development of our ports."

Bates has held a number of government positions including Secretary of State of Virginia.

The port authority was authorized by law to exist as of July 1, 2015, but it's taken several months for it to take shape.

In fiscal year 2016, $119,506 was allotted to the Department of Transportation for the port authority. The governor is proposing $400,000 for the port authority in fiscal year 2017, an increase from the $239,011 originally appropriated in the biannual budget passed last year.

The money will be used to pay an executive director and an executive assistant, who will do much of the administrative work, help run the port authority and manage the board. It will also go toward  start up costs, legal fees, auditing, and pay for fringe benefits for the two employees, among other expenses.

On July 1, the maritime functions of DOT such as the grants-in-aids program that many of the smaller harbors use for dredging and other infrastructure projects, and ownership of State Pier in New London will be transferred over to the port authority. The harbormaster program will be transferred to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the Connecticut River ferries will remain under DOT control.

DOT is in the process of breaking out its expenses related to State Pier, and state officials are proposing revenues from the facility go toward port authority operations. That money previously went to the state's special transportation fund. State Pier revenues in fiscal year 2015 totaled $546,503. The principal source of that revenue is operating agreements with Logistec USA, Inc., and a lease with the Thames River Seafood Cooperative.

The agreements were due to expire on Jan. 31, 2016, but have been extended for three more years. The new agreement gives Logistec the entire State Pier property to include the Central Vermont Railroad Pier, which was previously leased to Thames River Seafood.

"It was a decision to have one main operator for the entire facility and have Logistec execute sub-agreements with (Thames River Seafood Cooperative) and other potential tenants," DOT official Joseph Salvatore said by email.

The port authority board took up a number of housekeeping items at the meeting including a brief ethics overview, which explained that each member has to disclose any financial interests, and began the process of creating a subcommittee to review four proposals from firms for the executive director search.

j.bergman@theday.com

Twitter: @JuliaSBergman

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