By Farrah Salazar and Marco Schaden
Donald O’Brien is challenging incumbent Steven Flynn to serve as commissioner for the Manhasset-Lakeville Water and Fire Districts, which includes Russell Gardens, University Gardens, Lake Success and portions of Thomaston, Kensington and Great Neck Plaza, in the upcoming special district election on Tuesday, Dec. 10. O’Brien previously served as commissioner for six years before losing to Flynn three years ago and is now looking to reclaim his previous position.
“I was very impressed with the turnout of the entire community [in 2016], it was one of the most votes in the history of this election and I was not surprised to win,” Flynn said. “I believe that Donald is running because it is personal, there is an election every year and if it was about the position, he could have ran the last two years, but he didn’t. He waited until my term was up to come back.”
O’Brien believes his extensive background in finance and his accomplishments from previous terms make him a strong candidate.
“I learned in detail how the districts operate in the financial and legal side,” O’Brien said on his experience being commissioner for two terms. “The public and private sectors are totally different.”
If elected, O’Brien will focus on the three unregulated contaminants, which are perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and 1,4-dioxane. Water districts across Long Island have filed lawsuits after the discovery of wells contaminated with PFOA, PFOS and 1,4-dioxane. The Manhasset-Lakeville District currently has 14 out of 18 wells that are active and operating normally, but the other four wells were closed because contaminant concerns.
“If they are found when the test is administered and it exceeds the maximum contaminant levels (MCL) established in 2020, the districts will have to consider purchasing equipment to reduce the contaminants,” O’Brien said in regards to the water quality for the Manhasset-Lakeville district. “We have excellent water quality because our wells have not shown any indication of 1,4-dioxane contamination.”
However, several wells have shown 1,4-dioxane contamination and despite filing suits to raise money for the equipment necessary to filter the water of the contaminants, the district is moving forward to provide clean water.
“Right now the biggest contaminant is 1,4-dioxane contamination,” Flynn said. “It varies, different wells have different levels [of 1,4-dioxane] at this time. We have two wells that are over the levels, but the state has not come out with a contaminant level yet. We’re working on the 2020 budget, potentially designing an AOP plant, which is the only thing that will remove 1,4 dioxide. We can’t wait for the lawsuit, at this time we do need to move forward to make sure we deliver safe and healthy water to our taxpayers.”
O’Brien, a longtime Manhasset resident, has worked for Wall Street firms in real estate and has a 30-year financial related background. He is also on the board of trustees for the Manhasset Public Library as the financial officer and will continue to do so if elected as commissioner.
“He doesn’t have the educational background and the experience of working in the private sector,” O’Brien said about his opponent Flynn.
Flynn has been a New York State certified water operator for 16 years, has spent 18 years working with a water distribution system, member of the Long Island Water Conference and American Waterwork Association and is currently the Highway and Water Department Foreman for the Village of Plandome. Flynn recuses himself from his commissioner seat when Plandome and Manhasset-Lakeville Water District negotiate.
“On water experience, it’s all there, I have more water experience than any finance degree could ever give you,” Flynn said. “On the fire side, I have 30 years as an active member of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department.”
During O’Brien’s previous terms, the bond debt decreased by 50 percent and the fire district debt was paid in full.
“We were able to increase the amount of money every year for the water district that we spent on capital improvements,” O’Brien said. “There have not been any bonds taken out since I started.”
Flynn believes that fighting 1,4-dioxane, keeping taxes where they are and his previous record as commissioner will earn him another term.
“I’m going to continue to serve potable water throughout our community at a reasonable rate and provide the best fire protection out there. In the three years I have been here, the transparency between the district, the local municipalities and the taxpayers has improved tremendously.”