Bates helped get Port Authority off to a strong start

The surprising news that Scott Bates did not seek reappointment as chairman of the Connecticut Port Authority when the authority met last Wednesday was tempered by the decision to elect another local leader, Old Lyme First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, as chair.

Bates, from Stonington, had led the authority board since its first meeting in February 2016. Formed by the legislature in 2014 to advance Connecticut’s maritime economy, the authority under Bates’ leadership brought strategic planning where it was totally lacking, operations having been controlled by local authorities. The lack of cohesion had placed Connecticut at a disadvantage in competing with other states.

The chairmanship is not salaried. Bates remains on the board. He is also deputy secretary state. His wife, Lisa Tepper Bates, works in the Lamont administration on improving coordination of housing and transportation options in the state.

In a relatively short time, the port authority has had a major impact on State Pier in New London. Through a competitive process it hired Gateway to manage the port and pursue the goal of increased commercial activity.

A month ago, Bates joined Gov. Ned Lamont and New London Mayor Michael Passero in announcing that the state will work with Gateway and Bay State Wind on a $93 million project that will update the pier with heavy-lift capacity and other improved infrastructure, allowing it to serve as a staging area for construction of and service to offshore wind farms.

Reemsnyder brings to the task of chairing the board the experience of having served as vice chair since the authority’s creation.

During Bates’ time as director the authority also created the Small Harbor Improvement Program to promote dredging projects and make other improvements to these local assets.

His time as chairman was not without controversy. The New London mayor was upset to learn in January that the deal giving Gateway New London LLC management of the State Pier in his city did not include revenues for the host community. Three weeks later at a City Hall news conference that included the governor, a change to direct 10 percent of the revenues from the deal to New London, at least $75,000 annually, was announced.

Going forward, the authority, working with Gateway, will have the challenge of balancing retrofitting State Pier for the wind industry with traditional freight operations. The authority is correct in seeing wind power development as an opportunity that couldn’t be missed.

Bottom line: Bates helped build a solid foundation on which the authority can grow.

The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.

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