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Candidates for Manhasset-Lakeville Fire and Water District Election

(Editor’s Note: Both candidates were asked to provide a brief bio and were asked to list their qualifications for the position, their understanding of role of commissioner, and their most outstanding professional accomplishments. We also asked, “Why should someone vote for you rather than your opponent?” Here are their responses.)

Robert J. DeVito

I’ve lived in Great Neck for 55 years and have been married for 39 years. We have two sons and three grandchildren. I’ve been involved with the district for 41 years. As a fire chief, I worked on district budgets and gained a working knowledge of special districts and their tax system.  I have served on the board for the last six years, drafting yearly budgets and working with the supervisory personnel on the daily operations of the district. 

I’m employed as foreman of the Great Neck Vigilant Fire Company where my responsibilities include supervising staff, ensuring the building is operating without incident and keeping the emergency fire and ambulance equipment in top operating form. I also work with the billing and financial staff, purchasing equipment and tracking employee schedules and payroll.  These business skills are invaluable and are ones I use in the boardroom.

I bring management skills, along with the knowledge and experience I’ve gained while serving on the fire and water board for the last 6 years.   I’ve worked with the Department of Environmental Conservation along with our representatives in the state Assembly and state Senate on pollution issues.  I’ve held meetings with corporations that are building large construction projects to ensure that high water consumption would not affect our district.  I’ve met with companies to successfully negotiate the building of a new water well, pumping station and treatment facility at no cost to the district taxpayers.  I’ve led negotiations that expanded our existing fire district boundaries to match those of the water district, which will lead to savings in tax dollars.

Commissioner responsibilities are twofold, since this is both a water and fire district.  

Water operations: The production of fresh clean potable water at low rates is imperative. Capital projects must be done at the lowest possible cost.  Many hours are spent reviewing costs and designs to ensure that projects are completed efficiently. 

Fire operations: 98 percent of the fire budget is financed yearly by taxes.  We must keep the tax rate low yet keep the firefighters and emergency medical personnel safe by providing training and up-to-date emergency equipment.

Both districts have ongoing educational staff development through NYS certified courses to keep current on the district’s financial responsibilities and requirements.

We are a young board with two of my fellow commissioners serving for just two-and-a-half years respectively. While they are learning rapidly, my six years’ experience will help guide them and the board into the future.  I’ve led the charge to lower taxes twice and, with the exception of a small water rate increase in 2006, have held the line on increases. (See our website for rate schedule). My open-door policy has allowed residents to speak with the board more often so we can understand the concerns of the community. 

I have insisted that those responsible for polluting the water are responsible for cleanup! There are three main areas I’m very concerned about: the Lockheed Martin plume which is still in the recovery stage and appears to be spreading in a north by northeast direction, the freon plume in the Lloyd Aquifer and the nitrate issue on the eastern end of the district. 

I’ve been working with our engineering firm and our superintendent regarding the Lockheed plume to ensure the clean up is successful.  I’ve worked with the D.E.C. on the freon plume and feel we are making progress toward a clean up program with those responsible.

The nitrate issue is on the way to being treated.  We’re closely following the plume and are building a new treatment facility that will clean up the nitrates.

Brian J. Morris

Brian J. Morris, a 45-year resident of Manhasset, and ex-chief of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department, is seeking election for the position of Manhasset-Lakeville Water District commissioner. His vast experience in leadership roles make him uniquely qualified to oversee the operations of the water district. Ex-Chief Morris has been employed for 22 years by the Great Neck Vigilant Fire Company where he has risen to the position of assistant foreman.

Ex-Chief Morris actively serves the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department. While proudly serving the community in the position of chief of the Manhasset-Lakeville Fire Department, this enabled him to have the ability to see the needs of the community from both sides. He has extensive knowledge of the fire and water district’s responsibility to the community as he is a taxpaying community member. Throughout this time, he has gained an extensive knowledge base, which will enable him to provide the community with the best service possible.

During the 27 years ex-Chief Morris has been involved with the MLFD, he has held line officers positions, including lieutenant and captain. From 1995-2003, he has served as deputy chief. From 2003 to 2005, he served as the chief of department and was proudly recognized as the second father-and-son team to be chiefs in the history of the Manhasset- Lakeville Fire Department. Ex-Chief Morris is currently serving as Lieutenant of Company #1 for the second time.

Ex-Chief Morris is a Nassau County fire commissioner, which represents Nassau County’s 71 departments. He works with Nassau County officials, the Fire Marshal’s Office, Fire Communications and EMS/Fire Police Academy. Ex-Chief Morris is also the chairman of the 8th Fire Battalion, which represents eight local fire departments. He was the commanding officer involved with the Nassau County fire rescue coordinator to lead and detail 21 departments into NYC to aid in the rescue and recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site on Sept. 11.

When elected, ex-Chief Morris’ goal will be to cut district taxes without taking away any services the community already receives. The first priority will be to thoroughly review the 2010 water and fire budgets.  It is vital every budget expense be justified as essential.  The past business practices of consistently raising annual budget expenses without demonstrating justification is not acceptable. Ex-Chief Morris is very sensitive to the current downturn in the economy and its effect on the residents. As a resident himself, he understands the need to reduce spending when the spending is not essential. Since ex-Chief Morris is accustomed to working within a fire department budget, he brings valuable knowledge to the table.

Perhaps the most important attribute of a commissioner is the ability to lead, to listen to the needs of the citizens and elected officials, to compromise and to develop a consensus of priority issues to improve the district. As your new commissioner, I proudly look forward to supervising the highly acclaimed Manhasset-Lakeville Water and Fire District. The dedicated, well-trained personnel and competent superintendents are supported by renowned contracted engineering and legal advisors. The results are evident by the past receipt of an award for the best tasting potable water and the admiration of other neighboring fire districts.  It will be a privilege to guide future water infrastructure projects and to oversee the design of the finest fire and rescue apparatus procured for the safety and protection of our residents, while not going overboard on spending.