STRATFORD -- Lordship Boulevard resident Walter Rimkunas isn't ready to hop on board a plan to expand Sikorsky Memorial Airport.
And neither is Mayor James R. Miron.
"I am very irate," Rimkunas said Wednesday after learning that the state Department of Transportation has approved plans that would allow the airport -- located in Stratford but owned by Bridgeport -- to create a "safety zone" at the end of the main runway, the site of a 1994 crash that killed eight people.
"I live right at the end of the runway," Rimkunas said. "It took me by surprise. I've been fighting this airport for 55 years."
The project would include relocating Main Street east, toward the Housatonic River, to accommodate the area needed for the safety zone.
Miron said he's upset with the DOT, which made its decision without input from the town.
"It is very disappointing to me that the DOT would make this decision without giving Stratford residents and myself the chance to express our views at a public hearing," he said Wednesday. "It's also disingenuous for the DOT to say we're not interested after contacting my office once to try and arrange a meeting that I had a conflict with," Miron said. "We asked for another date, and they never got back to us."
Miron was also critical of Bridgeport Mayor John M. Fabrizi.
"He seems to be playing all the angles on this," Miron said. "We met recently about the future of the airport, and I came away believing Stratford would be part of any changes made there."
"The bottom line is that Stratford must be allowed to have a say in what happens at the airport. That doesn't mean I'm opposed to safety changes, I just want to have a say."
Miron also said the town is still interested in purchasing the airport from Bridgeport, and denied the town has no other motive than to shut down the facilities.
State Sen. Dan Debicella, R-Shelton, who also represents Stratford, said Wednesday he's not happy with the process that led to the DOT approval of the safety zone, which he called preliminary.
"The DOT did not consult with the town, they did not talk with any of us," he said.
He said Stratford's legislative delegation will meet with the DOT on the issue this week.
"We have letters from prior DOT commissioners that the state would make changes only if Stratford first approved them," Debicella said. "If GE owned the airport, they'd have to get local zoning approval."
He said the project has two issues: the Main Street relocation and the airport expansion.
"I'm 100 percent opposed to any expansion of the footprint of the airport," Debicella said. "We don't want large commercial flights."
Expanding the airport's footprint would require federal approval, he said.
But Fabrizi insists the work on the safety zones would not "add one inch" to the runway, and that every attempt has been made to keep Stratford involved.
"I've been trying to talk to Stratford officials for a number of years," Fabrizi said Wednesday. He said the work to improve the airport would cut down on the liability for Bridgeport's taxpayers.
As for talk that Stratford should consider buying the airport,Fabrizi said, "I will not close the door on that."
Fabrizi said the best owner for the airport would be the state.
"They have the economic development to make this a viable entity and a regional asset for the airline industry."
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