Town’s commissioner-operated districts see commissioners retain seats in election

Joe Nikic Noah Manskar And Matt Grech

All 10 incumbents in North Hempstead’s commissioner-operated special districts won re-election in this year’s elections.

Nine commissioners won in Tuesday’s election, while incumbent trustee Dr. Tharakaram Ravishankar won his second full five-year term on the Shelter Rock Public Library District last Tuesday.

With combined budgets rivaling the town’s in size, North Hempstead’s 26 commissioner-operated special districts are heavy on tax dollars but were light on candidates for the elections.

Of the ten district commissions that held elections, only the Great Neck and Manhasset park districts had contested races.

In the other eight, incumbent commissioners ran unopposed to retain their seats, which some of them have held as long as 20 years or more.

Great Neck Park District

Great Neck Park District Commissioner Robert Lincoln won re-election Tuesday to the same seat after defeating his former employee, Chandev Perera.

Lincoln received 780 votes, while Perera received 131 votes.

“The numbers were pretty dramatic and I’m humbled by the support that I got,” Lincoln said after the election. “I think it sends a message that the people are satisfied with the job that we’re doing.”

Perera worked for the district from 1992 until March, when he took a job with the U.S. Tennis Association.

In a November interview, he touted his knowledge and first-hand experience working within the district. He also said he would advocate for a limit on the number of terms commissioners can serve.

Lincoln was first elected to the commission in 2000 and won election for his sixth three-year term.

Park district Commissioners do not get a salary, but receive $100 for every meeting they attend.

The park district has a 2016 budget of more than $18.7 million.

Efforts to reach Perera following the election were unavailing.

Manhasset Park District

Manhasset Park District incumbent David Paterson was re-elected as commissioner for his second three-year term, beating out opponent Jesus “Jay” Hernandez.

Paterson received 381 votes to Hernandez’ 186.

Paterson said the victory wasn’t one for only himself.

“I can honestly just say I really don’t think that this personally is a win for me, it’s a win for the community,” he said. “I’m a commissioner with two other great commissioners, Kenneth Weigand and Mark Sauvigne. The community spoke, they like the team, they like all three of us. They like what we’ve done over the past three years, and they see our plans for the future.”

Paterson has been working towards the goal of transparency with the Park District and the community, and said he plans to continue this policy.

“Our website will continue to publish all of our minutes,” he said. “Transparency goes both ways, I’m very proud that our website continues to be updated at all times, so people know decisions we are making, our meetings remain open to the public and the public continues to contribute.”

The district has a 2016 budget of about $1.5 million.

Manhasset Park District commissioners are paid an hourly rate, not a salary, for the time they work with the district, as well as additional pay for meetings they attend.

New Hyde Park Fire District

Veteran firefighter Michael Bonura won a second full term as a commissioner in the New Hyde Park Fire District with 171 votes.

Two voters cast write-in ballots for Vincent LaPorta, and three other blank votes were cast.

“I can continue what I’ve been doing in the past seven years and go on to bigger and better projects that need to be done,” said Bonura, the commission’s vice chairman.

Bonura was first won his seat in a 2008 special election after another commissioner left.

His father-in-law, James Nagy, also sits on the board.

LaPorta lost a bid for a commission seat in 2013 and has since become one of a few vocal critics of the district, along with Deirdre Dolan, the daughter of ex-commissioner Michael Dolan.

At commission meetings and in letters to the New Hyde Park Herald-Courier, they have charged the district lacks transparency and accountability.

In an interview this week, Bonura said the commission takes the critics’ suggestions under advisement, but it often can’t provide the immediate answers they demand.

For instance, the district has considered starting its own website, a measure for which Deirdre Dolan led a 2013 petition that gathered 512 signatures. But it could put further stress a staff and budget already faced with equipment and infrastructure upgrades, Bonrua said.

“All this stuff adds up,” he said. “… We’re trying to take care of the things that are going make a big difference here.”

Dolan said Bonura gets “frustrated” when she asks about the website project. The district could use the website maintainted by the fire department, a separate entity, to put its meeting minutes online, she said.

“He’s elected by the people, not just for the firemen,” she said. “His job is to work for both.”

The district serves the Village of New Hyde Park and the unincorporated areas in North New Hyde Park. Its 2016 budget is just under $4.2 million. Commissioners are not paid.

Garden City Park Fire and Water District

With 162 votes, veteran firefighter Chris Engel won his bid for a fifth three-year term on the Board of Commissioners for the Garden City Park Fire and Water Districts.

Garden City Park fire chief Robert Mirabile got 64 write-in votes.

Engel, a Garden City Park resident, said in November he is proud of the commission’s efforts to keep up with quickly changing technologies, including a system that gives automatic readings from customers’ water meters.

“I don’t buy for today, I buy for tomorrow,” he said. “Because I’m not going to be here forever.”

Engel could not be immediately reached for comment Wednesday.

Mirabile’s write-in campaign started as an untrue firehouse rumor, he said. Once it got outside the department late Tuesday afternoon, he made a last-minute bid for votes through text messages and social media.

“I decided to run at 4 o’clock, so it was a five-hour campaign,” he said.

Mirabile congratulated Engel on his victory and said he might run a full campaign for a commission seat in the future.

The districts cover Garden City Park, Manhasset Hills, and parts of New Hyde Park, Mineola, North Hills, Roslyn, Williston Park, Albertson and Garden City. Their combined 2016 budget is about $7.3 million.

Commissioners are paid $80 for each meeting they attend.

Manhasset-Lakeville Fire and Water District

Manhasset-Lakeville Fire and Water District Commissioner Brian Morris was re-elected for his third three-year term.

Morris ran unopposed, and received 447 votes.

Morris is a former chief of the Manhasset Lakeville Fire Department, and said he is focused on the needs and safety of the residents of the district in an interview with Blank Slate Media before the election.

“Even though I ran unopposed, I am grateful to have the support of the taxpayers. I look forward to serving for another three years and will continue to focus on the needs and safety of the residents of our community,” he said in an e-mail.

Morris said the district “will continue to provide water infrastructure improvement projects and oversee the updating of the finest fire and rescue apparatus.”

The districts serve Manhasset and parts of Great Neck and North New Hyde Park. Their combined 2016 budget is about $17.7 million.

The district commissioners are paid a daily rate of $100 for work done with the district, and are required to submit a form outlining the work completed to receive payment.

Great Neck Water Pollution Control District

Great Neck Water Pollution Control District Commissioner Steve Reiter received all 276 votes in an uncontested election for his second three-year term.

“I wanted to thank everybody that came out to support me and I am pleased that I will have the opportunity to continue to serve the district by giving our constituents the best possible service at the lowest possible cost,” Reiter said.

During his first term, the Board of Commissioners secured more than $2 million in state grants and overseeing the installation of a new micro-turbine cogeneration facility, which Reiter said helped prevent an increase in the district’s tax levy.

Commissioners receive $80 for every meeting they attend.

The district has a 2016 budget of just over $9 million.

The district serves villages of Great Neck, Great Neck Plaza, Kensington, Thomaston and Saddle Rock as well as parts of Manhasset.

Roslyn Water District

Incumbent Roslyn Water District Commissioner Michael Kosinski ran unopposed and was re-elected for his eighth three-year term.

The election saw 25 votes for Kosinski, who has served on the commission since 1994 and remains as the current chair.

“We’re moving towards setting up for the next generation,” Kosinski said. “We implemented a master plan which we bonded and we are halfway through.”

Kosinski said the district will continue with their master plan, and hope to introduce a new well to their current three, as well as setup property for another future well for the village.

“The plan has been implemented and has been ongoing for a couple of years,” he said. “We’re moving towards getting the properties to build a new well. One of the wells was retired and brought back, but that’s not going to last forever.”The district serves the villages of Roslyn, Roslyn Estates, East Hills, and parts of Roslyn Heights, Roslyn Harbor, Flower Hill, North Hills, Greenvale, Albertson, Glenwood Landing and Port Washington. Its 2016 budget is more than $4.5 million.

The district chair is paid on a per meeting basis, and receives $80 for each meeting they attend.

Belgrave Water Pollution Control District

Belgrave Water Pollution Control District Commissioner Brian Levings received 57 votes in an uncontested election for a sixth term.

“I’m looking forward to servicing my community for the next 3 years,” Levings said. “I will be doing my best for them, trying to keep up with the new upgrades and looking for opportunities to find new upgrades.”

Levings touted the commission’s infrastructure improvements, including replacing the district’s chlorination filters with new ultraviolet ones and the upcoming installation of a new outflow pipe.

Belgrave Commissioners receive $100 per diem for every meeting they attend.

The district has a 2016 budget of more than $3.7 million.

The district administers sewage services for University Gardens, Russell Gardens, western parts of Great Neck Plaza between Great Neck Road and Cuttermill Road and the unincorporated areas on the peninsula.

Albertson Water District

Albertson Water District Commissioner Howard Abbondondelo won his fourth three-year term with all 121 votes cast in the election.

After winning his first unopposed election, Abbondondelo said he and the commissioners would continue installing a computerized water system and updating the district’s infrastructure to prepare for the future and serve residents well.

In a May interview, he touted the installation of new, larger water mains on McKinley Avenue and the digging of a fifth district well.

“The reason I have this job, if you read between the lines, is I enjoy it, meeting the people,” he said. “If they have a problem, we have someone there within half an hour.”

Abbondondelo served as president of the Nassau Suffolk Water Commissioners’ Association in 2014, and said he was recently appointed to its conservation and sustainability committee.

The district serves Albertson, Searingtown and parts of Roslyn Heights. Its 2016 budget stands at more than $3.1 million.

Commissioners are paid $80 for each meeting they attend.

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Joe Nikic Noah Manskar And Matt Grech

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