The board of the Connecticut Airport Authority (CAA) discussed a possible merger with the Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) during their annual meeting, with Executive Director Kevin Dillon saying he was approached by Gov. Ned Lamont’s office to consider merging with the CPA.
“I think this is a desire to see if there are potential synergies between the two agencies and to potentially gain some efficiencies,” Dillon said. “As you know, this would be a dramatic change in terms of the organization we’ve built here but I do believe the governor’s office views the CAA as a model quasi-public agency.”
News of merger talks initially broke following a CPA meeting with Executive Director David Kooris saying such a merger could bolster their management capabilities. The CPA has come under fire for the past four years during the redevelopment of the State Pier in New London, putting them under the microscope of lawmakers and the media.
Kooris said that CPA is in a good fiscal position “for the long term” during the CPA’s board meeting, but said, “we remain a small organization with a lot of obligations and a lot of regulations with which we need to comply.”
“One of those options that has been discussed over the years, if you’ll recall, is some sort of partnership with the Airport Authority,” Kooris continued. “Many conversations will certainly have to take place and there’s a lot of details that would need to be worked out if we conclude that that’s the best option.”
Dillon cautioned, however, that such a merger would not resemble the Port Authorities in New York or New Jersey, which manage seaports, airports and train services because the Federal Aviation Administration requires strict financial separation between the airport and seaport activities. Because New York and New Jersey’s Port Authorities were created prior to those regulations, they were allowed to continue.
Therefore, there would be no merging of finances, but only of management. “This would simply be a combination of the two agencies from a management standing,” Dillon said.
However, some board members questioned what that would look like, the composition of the board and whether it would be wise to take on another entity when management of the airports is going well.
“We’re certainly not looking to do something that becomes a distraction, certainly to the aviation components here at the airport,” Dillon said.
“This entity was created to focus on the betterment of the airports in the state of Connecticut, I think that by large measure it has been very, very successful,” a board member said. “Anything that would divert us from continuing, that would concern me. And the membership of the board I think has been very collegial, the focus has been the betterment of the airports without any personal agendas and I would want to see that continue and I would be concerned about how this would be structured.”
Others echoed similar sentiments but elected to withhold further comment until they see what is proposed. Both organizations acknowledged that these are just preliminary discussions, and such a merger would require a lot more information, including input from the governor’s office. The merger would require an act by the General Assembly and Lamont’s approval.
The CPA has come under intense scrutiny in its handling of the State Pier redevelopment into an offshore wind staging area, including its escalating price tag, but also numerous ethical violations and several resignations by board members.
The CPA is also under investigation by the U.S. Justice Department, which is also investigating Kosta Diamantis, Lamont’s former deputy director for the Office of Policy and Management appointed to oversee the State Pier. Diamanits is facing corruption allegations, which he denies, and he resigned from service in 2022.
The International Longshoremen’s Association held a protest outside the State Pier over a dispute with Danish wind power developer Orsted, claiming that Orsted gave the job of loading and unloading vessels to the International Union of Operating Engineers. The longshoremen are demanding training on the new specialized cranes to load and unload the vessels.