Newsday recently published an article about the high salaries of the special improvement districts on Long Island. While the headline and investigative reporting is eye catching, there are fallacies in the news article.
First of all, the Water Authority of Great Neck North is not a special district created by local residents, it is a public authority created by the State Legislature - one of over 640 public authorities created in New York State! The board of a public authority is not comprised of elected officials, but political appointees. Furthermore, the public authority is legally empowered to prepare its budget, assess fees and issue bonds without a public hearing.
According to Roberto Caro, the author of The Power Broker - Robert Moses and the Fall of New York, "operating through an authority, Moses could keep the public from finding out what he was doing." In 2004, the New York State Comptroller's Office issued The Public Authority Reform Report, which stated that "the pace of public authority creation has continued with the establishment of authorities to finance local government deficits and to take over county-operated medical centers,"
The Port Washington Water Pollution Control District is run by a seasoned crew with five to 30 years' experience. They are the skilled and knowledgeable workforce that ensures: the collection system and the plant are maintained and in working order at all times; the effluent quality is safe for discharge into Manhasset Bay; homeowners' and other emergencies are taken care of expeditiously and that Federal and State permit limits are met so that the district will not be fined thousands of dollars per day.
The board of commissioners and the district staff are vigilant in watching the budget and take pride in their job. Indeed, a majority of the district personnel reside in Port Washington and share the same concerns of the local community. It is unfortunate that the news article did not address the gorilla in the room.
Helen K. Chen
Port Washington Water Pollution Control District