Former Garden City Park Water and Fire Commissioner Alan Cooper is looking to take back his post on Dec. 14, running against Commissioner Chris Engel.
Cooper, a Garden City Park native who served as Garden City Park’s water commissioner in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said that rising water rates and stagnation drove him to run for his old post.
In 2019, Cooper ran for and lost the same position to current Commissioner Kenneth Borchers.
Cooper touted his experience and resume, which includes replacing outdated emergency vehicles, including two new ambulances, and rebuilding the district’s fire headquarters. For water, he says he led the effort to overhaul the water distribution infrastructure in order to replace outdated mains in the district, all while keeping taxes low and, in his first year, reducing the water tax rate.
“Since I left office, I feel this progress has stalled and the district is not keeping up with the changing landscape of both fire and water services,” Cooper said in an interview. “The current board has become complacent and it’s time for a change.”
The Garden City Park Water District Covers parts of Garden City Park, Manhasset 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.
The commissioner will serve a three-year term from Jan. 1, 2022, to Dec. 31, 2024. District residents vote for one of the three commissioner positions each year.
Cooper is focusing on water rates, which the board voted to increase approximately 60 percent over two years, a sign he said of little long-term strategic planning.
“When I was on the board, we would strategically plan our infrastructure upgrades so we could estimate funding we would need in the future,” Cooper said.
Recently, Long Island drinking water was found to have emerging contaminants linked to cancer as part of New York’s updated water quality standards. Cooper said the board went to the town for a $30 million bond, which it received. A waiver was then put in, Cooper says, to delay the implementation of updated infrastructure to abide by new regulations in order to remove the contaminants.
“I was faced with a similar situation regarding nitrates,” Cooper said. “We were able to successfully treat the groundwater to make it safe for our residents to drink. The current board lacks this experience and expertise.”
In a 2020 bond report, the board detailed needs involving capital improvements in support of its petition for bond financing. The eight recommended capital improvements listed in the report are treatment at four wells for contaminant removal, a new generator, rehabilitation of the Denton Avenue tank and water distribution system improvements.
Regarding fire issues, Cooper said the department is at the lowest level of staffing and that he will look to implement a strong recruiting program to increase the number of available volunteers to respond to emergencies.
Cooper said he has been a resident of the Garden City Park Water/Fire District his entire life. He has been a member of the Fire Department for 40 years, and in addition to commissioner, he has served as rescue captain and engine lieutenant, and currently serves as captain of Engine Company 4.
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.