Former Garden City Park Water and Fire Commissioner Alan Cooper is looking to take back his post from 12-year incumbent Kenneth Borchers next Tuesday.
Cooper, A Garden City Park native who served as Garden City Park’s water commissioner in the late ’90s and early 2000s, said that rising water rates and fire response times in the district drove him to run for his old post.
The Garden City Park Water District Covers parts of Garden City Park, Manhassett Hills, parts of New Hyde Park, parts of Mineola, parts of North Hills, Parts of Roslyn, parts of Williston Park, Parts of Albertson, and parts of Garden City
“One of the big issues on the water district side is the recent increase in our water rates,” Cooper said.
After not increasing rates for many years, the board has voted to increase the rates by approximately 60 percent over the next two years, Cooper said.
He said that when he was on the board that they would “strategically plan” how to avoid rate increases and even decreased water prices in his first year.
“That is an unheard-of rate increase and shows a lack of long-term strategic planning,” Cooper said. “When I was on the board, we would strategically plan our infrastructure upgrades so we could estimate the funding we would need in the future.”
Borchers has been water commissioner for 12 years seeking a fifth term and said that under his leadership, the district has seen many changes in water safety standards and testing requirements.
“An integral part of being commissioner of a water district is the need to be well-versed on all aspects of the process of getting safe, clean water to our customers,” Borchers said.
Borchers said that raising water rates was necessary for water quality.
“Water treatment is a required but expensive part of running the water district but until recently, we were able to maintain the same water rates for decades,“ he said.
Borchers declined to comment on Cooper’s run for commissioner.
Both candidates stressed the importance of clean drinking water as a major issue in this election.
“Emerging contaminants compliance is one of our primary concerns. Meeting the new proposed regulations and ensuring that our water supply complies with all local, state and federal requirements is our priority,” Borchers said.
Borcher said he supported municipalities like Mineola and Roslyn filing lawsuits against manufacturers of the chemical 1-4 dioxane and perfluorinated chemicals (PFOA and PFOS).
Borchers said the district has applied for and received grants “in the millions of dollars” for this purpose.
“Through these lawsuits, we are hopeful that the cost of treatment and long term operations of treatment facilities will be offset by the responsible parties and not the customers of the district,” Borchers said.
“I fully support this strategy as otherwise the burden of paying for these treatment facilities would be placed on the taxpayers of our district,” Cooper said on the lawsuits.
On the fire district, Cooper said The biggest issue facing the fire district is the lack of available manpower to respond to emergencies.
One of the methods the district has used to deal with this issue is to close one of the two firehouses in the district, and have all manpower respond to a single firehouse during weekday daytime hours, Cooper said. “Although this may appear to be a valid solution, the issue here is that the closed firehouse is centrally located within the district, while the open firehouse is blocks away from the district boundary,” Cooper said
All firefighters assigned to station two which is the firehouse on Denton Avenue just North of Hillside Avenue have to respond across town to the firehouse South of Jericho Turnpike, Cooper said.
“There is no evidence that this has increased response times and it has decreased the morale of those members assigned to station two,” Cooper said. “This issue needs to be looked at in a holistic way with data analytics. We should also look at best practices since we are not the only district with this issue. “
Borchers said during his time as fire commission the district has obtained grants for updating the radio communications and thermal imaging cameras utilized by firefighters and purchased a new ladder truck under budget replacing an over 26-year-old model that has enhanced older equipment efficiency.
“We have worked hard to deliver quality fire protection to the community,” Borchers said.
Cooper said he has been a resident of the Garden City Park Water/Fire District his entire life and has been a member of the fire department for 38 years. in addition to serving as commissioner, he also served as rescue captain and engine lieutenant.
Cooper is currently the associate dean of the Willumstad School of Business at Adelphi University and the owner of a consulting firm specializing in process improvement and organizational development.
“With all the changes and challenges facing our community, I have the experience, educational and professional background needed to provide a pure and plentiful water supply, and fire and EMS services second to none,” Cooper said.
Borchers said he has been a lifelong resident of Garden City Park for over 50 years.
His community service includes 38 years in the Garden City Park Volunteer Fire Department during which he has been a lieutenant and is currently the company’s financial treasurer for the past 19 years, he said.
Borchers also serves as a chairman for Long Island Water Conference Association and the Nassau/Suffolk Commissioner Association. He did not say what he does for work outside of his volunteer work
“I am running for re-election because I am devoted to our community and would like to continue to serve you with the utmost degree of dedication and commitment to the job,” Borchers said. “I am honest, respected, reliable and responsible.”
Residents in the Garden City Park Water/Fire District can vote at Garden City Park District Office at 333 Marcus Ave. on Dec. 10 from 4-9 p.m.