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Experienced pair face off for water and fire commissioner

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Posted: Thursday, December 1, 2016 10:12 am

Donald T. O’Brien pointed to his experience helping manage the budget of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire and Water District.  Steve Flynn cited his background as a public works superintendent.

The two are competing in an election on Dec. 13 to fill a three-year term on the district’s commission. 

The  three commissioners oversee an $18.6 million budget and ensure that residents receive clean, reliable water as well as prompt fire safety services. The Manhasset-Lakeville Fire and Water District takes in all of Manhasset except for Plandome, half of Great Neck, and some of northern New Hyde Park. 

Though the commission oversees both the fire and water districts, which cover the same geographic area, the two are technically independent of each other. They serve approximately 45,000 people, who use 

7.4 million gallons of water a day, according to the water district’s website. 

The position of commissioner is part-time and pays $100 for each of two weekly meetings for a total of approximately $800 per month. 

O’Brien, an  incumbent who has served two three-year terms, emphasized his 34 years working in real estate finance before taking the position and how it helped him manage the district budget. 

“We haven’t borrowed any money since I’ve been on the board,” he said. “We paid down $10.6 million of the water district debt, which amounts to 50 percent of the total. And the fire district will be debt free in March.” 

He pointed to the new Munsey Park water tower, which he said will go on line by the end of the year, as an achievement that came together through the careful apportioning of funds and the consistent application of oversight for the duration of the two-year project. 

The tower is behind schedule, since its initial deadline for completion was November. 

O’Brien attributed the delay to the “impact of weather” and said he considered the timeline “pretty accurate forecasting for such a large project.” 

Initially, when  the  water tower was proposed, village officials and residents raised concerns about the aesthetics of having another tower, while also questioning the safety of having such a large tank in the middle of a residential area.

In an interview, Flynn described himself as superintendent of the Department for Public Works in the Village of Plandome.  

The village website lists him as the Highway and Water Department foreman.  Elizabeth Kaye, the clerk-treasurer for the village, said the two titles are used interchangeably by village officials. 

Flynn overseas two full-time employees and an occasional part-time employee, Kaye said. 

Flynn said his  job affords him “extensive knowledge of the water distribution systems.” 

“I understand costs and options with water systems, and I have worked within budgets to get the right systems at the right price,” he added.

He also pointed to his 27 years as a volunteer firefighter in Manhasset, which included positions of second lieutenant, first lieutenant and captain. 

“I bring the right blend of fire and water background coupled with the love I have for this town as a 46-year resident,” he said.

For his part, O’Brien said he has lived in Manhasset “since grammar school.” 

Flynn acknowledged that O’Brien has “served this community well over the last six years.” 

“This is an election where the voters have two viable candidates,” he added. 

O’Brien did not share such an opinion of Flynn. 

He said Flynn “has a limited understanding because he has only been to two meetings and there is a lot going on.” 

The  water district holds one meeting per week, as does the fire district. Flynn did not respond to a request for comment about the number of meetings he has attended.

Flynn said he would “serve Manhasset with utmost respect for our community, and with the pride and tradition that my family has instilled in me.”

O’Brien summed up his candidacy by saying, “There are a lot of financial and management duties for the commissioner. That’s what I brought to the job and I want to continue to do that.”

Voting will take place on Dec. 13 from noon to 9 p.m. at firehouses 1, 3, 4 and 5

Welcome to the discussion.