Donald O’Brien, who is challenging incumbent Chairman Steven Flynn to serve as a commissioner of the Manhasset-Lakeville Water and Fire Districts in the coming special district elections, says his past experience and knowledge make him a good fit for the job.
The commission oversees both the fire and water districts, which cover the same geographic area, but 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 commission ensures that residents receive clean, reliable water as well as prompt fire safety services.
O’Brien, a Manhasset resident who is a two-term trustee on the board of the Manhasset Public Library, was elected to two terms on the district’s Board of Commissioners in 2010 and 2013, also described his thoughts on the proposed development by Brookfield at Macy’s and what he would do as chair on his first day.
Concerning Flynn’s actions as chairman, O’Brien wrote in response to questions from Blank Slate Media that he thought Flynn did not take initiative at board meetings.
“I have attended board meetings for both the Water and Fire Districts over the past three years,” O’Brien wrote. “Mr. Flynn did not articulate in any detail his position on management and operating issues effecting the district at any meeting I attended. I never observed any new significant input or proposals regarding the challenges effecting both districts.”
O’Brien also found fault with Flynn’s budget presentation, which he says was composed of reading PowerPoint slides.
“[Flynn] did not provide any background information or details regarding the individual categories in the budget,” O’Brien wrote. “Following his reading, he asked if there were any questions or comments. During the question and comment session, he referred everything to another Board member without ever interjecting any of his own thoughts or comments. This is unusual since most presenters try to respond when asked questions.”
Issues facing the district in the coming years, O’Brien wrote, include new water standards by the New York State Department of Health for certain contaminants, and costly new equipment for the district’s air strippers, which prevent certain contaminations. O’Brien plans to familiarize himself with the contaminants and meet with the district’s engineer to price the new equipment, as well as meet with fellow water boards to discuss issues of the day.
“It is vital to have Commissioners on the Board who have the education, background, business management experience and financial expertise to handle these complex problems and changing situations,” O’Brien wrote. “A certain level of knowledge and experience, and a commitment to learn and understand the details of the many topics discussed at board meetings, are essential if a commissioner is to make a positive contribution to the decision-making process of the entire board.”
One of the greatest issues being discussed concerns the Brookfield Properties development at the Macy’s site. The Water District would have to permit the proposed mixed-use development project, which would see a hotel and several apartment buildings constructed alongside stores.
O’Brien attended the initial presentation to the Council of Greater Manhasset Civic Associations by Brookfield Properties and a Macy’s real estate representative, and takes issue with the project as a whole.
“There are many issues that have been raised by a vast majority of civic leaders, residents, and the agencies that would have to provide services for the proposed development,” O’Brien wrote. “There is the issue of water availability from the Water District and the impact on the Manhasset School District that would require construction of new classrooms through the issuance of bonds to finance the construction. The Fire Department and Ambulance Unit would see a significant increase in fire and ambulance calls to such a large scale development, and there would be a major increase in traffic on Northern Boulevard, Community Drive and East Shore Road, an area that is already unable to move traffic during peak hours.”
For those reasons, O’Brien says, he “[does] not believe it is in the best interest of the Manhasset or Great Neck residents to proceed with the proposed development.”
A former specialist in real estate finance, O’Brien ran against Flynn, at the time a highway and water department foreman in Plandome, for a position on the board in 2016.
Flynn was unavailable for comment.