Bridgeport to proceed with sale of Sikorsky to CT Airport Authority, despite Stratford pitch
BRIDGEPORT — The Sikorsky Memorial Airport Commission voted to move forward with plans to sell the airport to the Connecticut Airport Authority at its meeting Thursday afternoon.
The commission will now forward the CAA’s term sheet – a negotiating framework – for the sale of the airport to Bridgeport City Council. The CAA offered to buy the airport for $10 million months ago, but that figure is subject to Federal Aviation Administration approval because no entity can pay more for the airport than Bridgeport has lost, according to CAA Executive Director Kevin Dillon .
During Thursday’s meeting, the commission heard presentations from the CAA and the City of Stratford on the sale of the airport before ultimately voting in favor of the CAA, with Stratford Mayor Laura Hoydick – the only responsible for the city of the commission – the only vote against .
Hoydick in March surprised state and local officials when she announced the city’s interest in the purchase of the airport, which is owned by Bridgeport but based in Stratford.
After the meeting, Hoydick questioned the legality of the post-vote process.
“It is unfortunate that the airport commission did not vote to advance Stratford to city council to buy the airport,” Hoydick said. “I don’t really know if this process was legal. It doesn’t seem to me that there was any sort of formal proposal process and I would have thought that we as an organization would have followed the Governor’s lead – what he suggested we do a public request for proposals. But that was not the way it was proposed.
In addition to the process itself, Hoydick also questioned why the presentations were made in public when the agenda listed it for a private executive session — a point of multiple discussions during the meeting. She also questioned the timing, as the meeting took place at 3 p.m. and ended within the hour.
“I expect the Town of Stratford to verify that this was conducted legally and noticed appropriately and that the agenda lists all action items as appropriate,” Hoydick said. “That’s not how we do things in the town of Stratford. And I don’t think that’s the way the city council normally does either.
Dillon acknowledged the significant investment the airport may need to be fully utilized to bring it up to commercial passenger standards. He cited the figure of about $62 million in total investment in facilities.
“We believe Sikorsky Airport, unfortunately, is currently underutilized and underdeveloped,” Dillon said. “We believe as an airport authority here in the state that there is a real opportunity to invest in the airport and grow the airport. Certainly, for improved general aviation service, but I think also for commercial passenger service.
“We believe it will take approximately $62 million to implement the basic requirements of the master plan to bring the airport to what we believe is an acceptable standard as well as a standard that would allow the continued operations of a commercial airline,” he added. .
He also said that the CAA is “ready to offer employment to all existing employees at the airport”.
The Stratford presentation, given by State Senator Kevin Kelly, who represents Stratford in the Legislative Assembly and is also a lawyer, proposed transferring ownership of the airport to the city at a price of up to $13 million. with the possibility of concluding an agreement with an airport operator.
Stratford’s intention was to develop a commercial passenger service to the airport similar to how Tweed New Haven Airport established its service to that city.
Kenneth Flatto, a member of the Airports Commission and Bridgeport’s chief financial officer, said he voted for the CAA because “its main job is to manage airports and make them work for the public good”. He also said he was “somewhat concerned” about Stratford’s intention to seek a “public-private partnership” with an operator. However, Kelly noted that Stratford would own the entire airport and that the operator would be hired by the city and would not own any part of the airport.
Stratford’s proposal also included the creation of a Stratford Airport Commission, in which Bridgeport would have had at least one member. It was then brought to the attention of two Bridgeport members after further discussion.
Hoydick requested that a stipulation in the sale agreement with the CAA include a clause prohibiting the CAA from using eminent domain to absorb additional land for airport or runway expansion after the vote. Dillon said the CAA had no intention of using eminent domain for this purpose after his presentation.