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Thu, Feb 07, 2008

Stratford Mayor Wants Deal On Sikorsky Memorial Airport

Community Opposes Expansion, Wants Tax Money

A long-standing dispute between the Connecticut communities of Bridgeport and Stratford, over control of Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport (BDR), may be coming to a head. Stratford Mayor James Miron said this week he thinks the time is right to make an offer on the 800-acre property.

On Tuesday, Miron told reporters this is a "perfect time to jump-start negotiations again on the airport," according to The Connecticut Post. He plans to meet Monday with Bill Finch, mayor of Bridgeport, to discuss a potential agreement.

Bridgeport now owns the airport, although it is located within the Stratford town limits. The two communities have bickered for decades over which community should hold the title to the land, and reap the tax dollars collected from it.

"We have made no secret of our desire to obtain the airport so we can have more control over what happens there and also be in a position to receive taxes on the property, which we have never been able to do," Miron said. "I believe this is a very realistic possibility now, and that the new Stratford Town Council can do something truly great by helping to facilitate this process."

For the aviation community, there is a deeper philosophical issue at stake as well. Bridgeport has long espoused expanding the airport, or at least making needed safety improvements to the runway... moves Stratford has vehemently opposed.

As ANN reported, the Connecticut DOT signed off on an expansion plan for the field in June 2007, one month after a proposed takeover of BDR by the state failed. Faced with a ballooning budget deficit, Bridgeport officials have become increasingly open to the idea of selling off municipal properties, including the airport.

Former Bridgeport Mayor John M. Fabrizi entertained the notion of selling the airport last year, for a price in the "$20 million neighborhood, which we consider fair-market value," he said. "We're not just going to give the airport away."

Fabrizi didn't find any takers at the price, saying that informal discussions between the two communities yielded proposed bids of around $10 million... but newly-elected Mayor Finch says he's open to hearing any 'reasonable' offers on the property.

"I'm certainly interested in listening to Mayor Miron's ideas. I have not heard from him yet, but I am eager to," Finch said. "We would be foolish not to entertain any reasonable offer that the town of Stratford is willing to put forth."

The airport is located across Stratford's Main Street from a former Army Engine Plant, which the US Army is now selling for redevelopment purposes -- adding impetus to discussions on the sale of Sikorsky Memorial.

"With Bridgeport eager to sell properties, and plans for the Army Engine Plant's development, I can't think of a better time to work out an agreement on the airport," Miron said.

FMI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sikorsky_Memorial_Airport

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