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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sikorsky Airport work raises environmental concerns

By James Tinley
Register Staff
The prospect of upgrades to Sikorsky Memorial Airport in Stratford has environmentalists buzzing over a potential increase in noise and air pollution that could affect residents of the Milford shoreline.
But Airport Manager John Ricci said Tuesday the $30 million in upgrades, which include a 38,000-square-foot hangar, a 15,000-square-foot terminal and 15,000 square feet for office space, will only replace existing structures and that there is no plan to expand air service.
The entire site plan will be on display at a building committee meeting at 3 p.m. today in the Ramada Inn, 225 Lordship Blvd., Stratford.
The renovations to the airport, which is located in Stratford but owned by the city of Bridgeport, have been hotly contested for years. After once mounting strong opposition, Stratford has approved adding 60 new "T" hangars and the new terminal and large hangar that will replace the existing structures. This came after Bridgeport agreed to pay the town $135,000 a year for serving as host for the airport.
"I’m concerned about the fuel and pollutants from the planes as they go shooting across Milford because we are on their flight path," said Ann Berman, chairwoman of the Environmental Concerns Coalition. "People have complained that the route goes right across the coast of Milford. We have enough pollution from I-95 that we don’t need another source."
The airport also abuts a portion of the Stewart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge.
Berman and Marcia Stewart, president of the Stratford-based group Protect Your Environment, have expressed concerns that the construction and new proposed fueling station may adversely affect the delicate ecosystem.
Those plans have already passed the Stratford Planning and Zoning Board, and Ricci said all environmental concerns have been addressed there. He added that the new construction will replace existing buildings and the footprint of the airport won’t change.
"We’re replacing a terminal that is very near the end of its serviceable life," Ricci said.
He also insisted that air traffic patterns will not change and there are no plans to increase service.
Milford Mayor James L. Richetelli Jr. said he is watching the situation carefully, and that if he thought Milford would be adversely affected by noise and air pollution, he would oppose the plans. For the time being, he said he is reserving judgment until a conclusion has been reached, as talks and proposals have been going on for years.



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