Minutes of meetings from a September 17, 2012 City Council committee and then a meeting of the full City Council immediately following provide some insight into the funding approval that led to a controversial $400,000 gravel driveway at the Stratford home of a Bridgeport-based developer as part of a larger $40 million safety upgrade at Sikorsky Memorial Airport, owned by the city but located in Stratford. The driveway dust-up reported by the Connecticut Post has ousted Airport Manager John Ricci from his job until city officials sort out potential conflicts of interest regarding his business dealings with radioactive developer Manny Moutinho whose business interests have come under the scrutiny of federal officials. The latest from CT Post reporter Brian Lockhart here.
A review of the minutes from the meetings provide no specificity about the eventual work conducted by Moutinho for his own benefit, but highlights Ricci’s request for funding safety improvements at the airport. City officials say the improvements required replacing the old dirt driveway accessed by Moutinho. Two years ago OIB touched on Ricci’s relationship with Moutinho.
OIB reviewed the minutes of meetings posted on the city’s website. See below:
Minutes from September 17, 2012 council committee:
City of Bridgeport Economic and Community Development and Environment Committee Special Meeting September 17, 2012
CITY OF BRIDGEPORT
ECONOMIC and COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT and ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE SPECIAL MEETING MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2012 6:00 PM
Council members: Brantley; Co-chair, Martinez; Co-Chair, Curwen, Blunt, M. McCarthy OTHER(s): Council members: Council President McCarthy 128-11
Resolution to enter into a grant agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to pursue a runway safety area at the end of the Airport’s Runway 6/24.
John Ricci pointed out where the runway will be located. He stated he received approval from the Mayor to enter into a grant agreement for $2.4 million. He explained that the grant is required to conduct the necessary design work and approve the permittee through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. He said there will be a 5% local equivalent to $120k that will come from residual funds that was allocated for other projects and a bond may also be issued.
Co-chair Martinez asked the amount of the grant. Mr. Ricci reiterated that the grant is for $2.4 million with a 5% local match of approximately $125k; but the total project could run up to nearly $2 million.
Tom Sherwood (city budget director) added that the total amount could be closer to $3 million, noting that this is part of a $26 million project. He stated that the funds were available and the project would be funded in phases.
Council President McCarthy stated that he served on the Airport Commission so he had a unique perspective about the project that dates back seventeen years when there was a plane crash during 1994. Overall, he said that the City of Bridgeport feels that they need a larger and wider runway, although the Town of Stratford doesn’t necessarily agree. He explained the potential risks that aircraft have landing that could occur due to the current condition of the runway; so it’s important to address the problem due to the high risk of a plane crashing into the fence. He further noted that there were four (4) crashes in the past.
Mr. Ricci stated that they adding a safety area to the end of the runway that’s currently there.
The item was temporarily tabled for the purpose of obtaining additional information regarding the funding source
Co-chair Brantley returned to item 128-11 Resolution to enter into a grant agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to pursue a runway safety area at the end of the Airport’s Runway 6/24.
COUNCIL PRESIDENT McCARTHY MOVED TO APPROVE CONTINGENT UPON APPROVAL OF THE BONDING PACKAGE IN THE BUDGET & APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
COUNCIL MEMBER M. McCARTHY SECONDED
MOTION PASSED UNANIMOUSLY
Full council meeting that followed:
From Minutes of Council meeting September 17, 2012
COUNCIL MEMBER dePARA MOVED TO COMBINE AND APPROVE THREE (3) ITEMS AS AMENDED 131-11; 132-11 AND 133-11 MODIFICATION TO THE FY2013-2017 FIVE YEAR CAPITAL PLAN CONCERNING CITY PROJECTS
COUNCIL MEMBER BRANNELLY SECONDED
Council member Baker asked why they were putting so much money into the airport. Council member T. McCarthy stated that he sits on the Airport Commission. He explained that the runway needs to be repaved and the FAA (Federal Aviation Association) won’t pay for it. He further explained that if it’s not repaved, the less traffic the airport will see.
And when the safety zone goes in, take-offs and landings will advance; additionally, when the quality of the runway advances, then they will draw more people to the airport. He clarified that the airport has never made a profit and the project will allow a safer runway and landing and this will ultimately attract more people and revenue.
Council member Brantley echoed Council member McCarthy, noting that the safety issue is very important.
MOTION PASSED WITH FOURTEEN VOTES IN FAVOR AND ONE VOTE IN OPPOSITION (COUNCIL MEMBER BAKER)