The Connecticut Port Authority (CPA) was granted its request for $30 million in additional state funding for the State Pier project on Friday. But the State Bond Commission did not grant those funds without questions.

This latest request came just over a year after CPA Board Chairman David Kooris assured the commission that his last funding request would be the final one.

The State Pier project has been plagued by cost overruns in the last four years bringing intense scrutiny from lawmakers, the public, and the media. Initial estimates put it at $90 million, which grew to $255 million. This latest round of funding puts the price tag over $309 million.

According to Kooris at today’s meeting, the latest cost overruns are a result of unforeseen construction issues in the last 15 months. These were mostly what Kooris called “deep obstructions” or obstructions that are 60 or 80 feet below the water. 

“Getting through those has been complicated and it requires a variety of measures,” said Kooris. “In some instances, it requires digging them out, moving them if they’re accessible. In some, it requires digging through them. In others, it requires anchoring the piles to them.”

Kooris told the commission that the CPA is much more confident in their cost projections this time around because the project is much further along before. He said the facility is 70% completed and those sections have been turned over to their private partners. Sections of wind turbines have also been delivered to the pier and Gateway Terminals will begin assembly in the next few months.

Kooris reassured the commissioners by stating that in this current contract amendment with their contractor Kiewit, all but three elements had guaranteed maximum price tags and would not be subject to further overages. For the remaining three, Kooris stated that the CPA had an allowance of about $3.5 million and an additional contingency of “about $6.5 million.”

Kooris also told the commissioners that following the previous request for funding, the CPA went back to their private partners Ørsted and Eversource and requested that they put up additional money of their own. He says that they agreed to split new costs down the middle with the companies investing an additional $23.5 million together while CPA puts up the remaining $23.5 million plus some contingency.

This additional contribution brings the private funding for the project up to $100 million from the previous $76.5 million.

Rep. Holly Cheeseman (R-East Lyme) said that while she appreciates the CPA’s efforts to raise funds from private partners, those private partners will be the first to recoup their investment when the pier begins to make money. 

“I would be less frustrated if I had not sat at this commission and heard, time after time, I believe three or four requests for additional funding. I wish someone had had the honesty to admit that we as a state have never tackled a project this large, this is our best estimate.”

Cheeseman said she would take Kooris’ guarantee that the CPA would not return again for more money at face value but stressed that a $200 million investment of state money in this project did not feel like a proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Cheeseman wasn’t the only commissioner who expressed disappointment in this additional funding request after previous guarantees that they would not be required.

“I think this project has been pretty much a disaster from the very beginning,” said State Sen. Henri Martin (R-Bristol), who did not pull punches during his statements. Martin told Kooris that if this project had been an entirely private enterprise, he would likely not have a job today due to the continued cost overruns.

Martin also brought up other factors which have brought intense criticism to both the project and the Port Authority itself, including a criminal investigation into former Office of Policy Management head Kosta Diamantis, and the payment of success fees which recently resulted in fines from the state board of ethics.

Additionally, Martin expressed concern over Kiewit’s decision to grant itself millions in construction contracts for the project, calling the action a “direct conflict.”

Ultimately, the commission voted in favor of the additional funding with Cheeseman and Sen. Henri Martin (R-Bristol) voting against.

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An Emmy and AP award-winning journalist, Tricia has spent more than a decade working in digital and broadcast media. She has covered everything from government corruption to science and space to entertainment...

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