STRATFORD, Conn. -- A group of lawmakers is calling on the Secretary of the Navy to suspend possible plans to shift maintenance of the president's Marine One helicopter fleet from Sikorsky Aircraft in Stratford to a facility in Florida.
Last week local legislators announced that negotiations between Sikorsky and the U.S. Navy had fallen through, meaning that the repair work would no longer be performed in Connecticut where it has been done for the last four decades. Instead, the Navy would perform the work internally at a center in Florida. Area lawmakers said the move would impact 85 jobs in the Stratford area.
U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), along with U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) and Jim Himes (CT-4) sent a letter to Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus Monday, insisting that the work continue to be performed in Stratford, where it has been done for the past four decades.
“We strongly urge you to suspend any relocation until a thorough review of all direct and indirect costs of any relocation are made,” the letter said. "The age of the fleet makes it difficult and costly to maintain, and the 85 workers dedicated to the program in Stratford, Connecticut are best prepared to meet this challenge because they have worked on these aircraft for four decades. No other facility has the standing expertise."
The lawmakers said that any other facility that attempts to undertake this work would require time and money to reach the same standard of maintenance performed by the Stratford site.
"We are confident that Stratford workers are capable of continuing to complete this work – as they have done reliably and safely throughout the life of the program – with an irreplaceable level of expertise and familiarity with the aircraft that sets them apart," they wrote. "Any monetary differential in contracts should be weighed against ensuring timely, accurate, and expert repairs – a feat that can only be accomplished by continuing to employ those currently ready to perform the work at Sikorsky."
They urged Mabus to continue negotiations over the maintenance work until an acceptable agreement is reached.
"We also ask that Stratford continue to be responsible for the support and maintenance of the future VH-92 fleet, which is being developed on site and would benefit from maintenance by its original manufacturer. This program brings prestige to the facility and its workers, and bolsters Connecticut’s workforce by employing its highly skilled workers at one of the state's greatest companies."