Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Smooth takeoff for airport manager: Sikorsky Memorial (KBDR), Connecticut

BRIDGEPORT -- In two short weeks Pauline Mize has made a good impression on tenants and volunteers in her job as acting manager at Sikorsky Memorial Airport.

"She seems incredibly knowledgeable and I'm very impressed by her experience," said lawyer and ex-Republican politician Rob Russo, co-owner of Three-Wing Flying Services, a tenant at the city-owned, Stratford-based Sikorsky. "I'd be thrilled to see her get the job permanently."

Mize was quietly hired last month to replace John Ricci, who was fired this summer after over two decades running the airport for a conflict-of-interest involving a $400,000 driveway built over Sikorsky land.

Tuesday marked Mize's first appearance at a meeting of the airport commission, made up of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, Bridgeport Council President Thomas McCarthy, D-133, and Stratford Mayor John Harkins.

"That was a more comprehensive airport manager's report than we've ever had," said David Faile Jr. head of the 650-member strong Friends of Sikorsky, whose members use and promote the airport.

Anyone doubting Mize inherited a lot from Ricci should have attended Tuesday's meeting.

Russo was there hoping to work out an arrangement to forgive over half of the $120,000 debt he inherited from Three-Wing's former owners so he can continue growing the company.

A frustrated Eugene Madara, president of the Connecticut Air & Space Center, urged the commission to resolve some issues that have kept that group from opening a museum at the airport.

Mike Becker, owner of Blue Sky Flight, an aircraft rental and flight instruction business, voiced a similar complaint -- he's been refurbishing an airport hangar without a finalized lease.

Then there's that $40 million, federally funded runway safety project that got Ricci fired in the first place.

The city has said Ricci failed to reveal his real estate dealings with Manuel "Manny" Moutinho even as he was negotiating to hire the developer to build a $400,000 taxpayer funded, no-bid driveway to Moutinho's waterfront mansion. The project -- first revealed this summer by Hearst Connecticut Newspapers -- was, the city said, needed to replace a dirt driveway used by Moutinho and three neighbors that will be taken for the runway safety work.

Although Mize, who lives on Long Island, ran Suffolk County's Francis S. Gabreski Airport from 1998 to 2005 and oversaw projects there, she told airport commissioners Tuesday, "This will be my first $40 million one."

The city is facing a federally mandated deadline of 2016 to improve runway safety two decades after a small plane crash at Sikorsky killed eight people.

"We should be able to bid this job out this spring," Mize told the commission.

Despite the controversy surrounding Ricci and the driveway, the Finch administration has been less-than-forthcoming about the circumstances of Mize's hiring or her long-term relationship with Fred Hall, the manager of the Bridgeport-Port Jefferson Ferry. The couple owns a home on Long Island.

The mayor's office, for example, continues to decline requests for the resumes of the other two candidates it said were in the running.

And after ignoring Hearst's repeated questions about whether Mize's hiring was approved by the city's Civil Service Commission, City Attorney Mark Anastasi Tuesday told the airport commission her appointment will be on that group's next agenda.

The mayor's office has said it needed to move quickly to replace Ricci and keep the runway work on track.

On Tuesday, Finch appeared to criticize some of the continued scrutiny of the airport and runway project.

After Mize's report the mayor said the runway safety upgrades are all about ensuring no more lives are lost.

"That's what we're all about -- most of us," the mayor said.

Original article:  http://www.ctpost.com

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