Honestly, it’s hard to keep track of all the myths being told about Ned Lamont’s giant boondoggle in New London, the money pit at State Pier, because, well, the truth is ugly.
Here at the start of 2023, as Lamont and his State Pier cronies continue to dodge questions about how much it is going to finally cost ― the Connecticut Port Authority slipped out of that latest reckoning by canceling the January board meeting ― it’s clear that myth making is much more pleasant than the nasty reality.
The myths have grown bigger and more numerous as the project has descended into chaos, with multiple criminal investigations, spiraling cost overruns, enormous construction setbacks and no happy ending anywhere in sight.
Still, though it has become an enormous task, I think it’s good to try to let the air out of the biggest myths, as they balloon out of control.
One that seems especially ripe to dispel, as the governor tries his best to remain clueless about how alarming it has all become, is that suggestions of corruption relate to the past.
Lamont especially likes this one, to suggest that these new investigations relate to the long-ago era of Scott Bates as port authority chairman, one of two port authority chairmen whom the governor escorted to the door.
The trouble with that one is that one principal subject of all the current investigations is the $523,000 success fee paid to the company of a former board member.
That final payment was negotiated by current port authority Chairman David Kooris, Lamont’s pick to head the agency.
Kooris, who presents himself as the reformer, got caught in a lie recently trying to keep information about Attorney General William Tong’s investigation into the success fee from becoming public.
Indeed, the wide-ranging criminal investigations into the port authority ― two federal grand juries have issued subpoenas ― are examining the hundreds of millions of dollars still being paid out for State Pier by the current Kooris port authority. By any measure, his management is under investigation.
I find it unfathomable that the governor continues to let stand the administration of this quasi-public agency that is under so much criminal scrutiny for a project of such uncontrolled and continuing cost overruns.
One board member continues to ignore ethics rulings that he refrain from voting on the pier project.
I would get new management in place immediately, even if there weren’t criminal investigations.
Why is the governor tolerating colossal mismanagement of a project with epic cost overruns and no end in sight?
Remember, too, that the hiring of a construction manager that then hired itself ― to legislators’ great alarm ― over other viable subcontractors, for many millions of dollars in contracts, is a product of the Kooris management of the agency.
There are too many other State Pier myths to explore now in this space, but I have to at least mention the other most enduring one about the project, which has been told as a fairy tale from the very beginning.
Lamont likes to boast that the new State Pier, if it is finally finished and put to use as a wind turbine staging facility ― an outcome that might be uncertain at this point ― will make New London an epicenter of the offshore wind industry.
That’s more than a myth. It’s actually a big lie told to the taxpayers asked to underwrite this crazy scheme.
If the whole project were to finally collapse under the weight of excessive costs, mismanagement and criminality, the utilities can just move on to other East Coast ports where the same work can be done.
Please, tune out that big myth of New London being a wind industry hub.
It’s time to keep bleeding the air out of all the pernicious myths about what may go down as the biggest waste of public money in Connecticut history.
This is the opinion of David Collins