Garden City Park Water and Fire Commissioner Chris Engel is being challenged by former Commissioner Alan Cooper in the election on Tuesday.
Engel is a former chief of the Fire Department who served two terms. The lifetime Garden City Park resident has been a commissioner for the last 18 years.
The incumbent serves on the board alongside Kenneth Borchers and Peter Chimenti.
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 beginning Jan. 1. District residents vote for one of the three commissioner positions each year.
Cooper, a Garden City Park native who served as commissioner in the late 1990s and early 2000s, said that rising water rates and stagnation drove him to run for his old post.
“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 with Blank Slate Media. “The current board has become complacent and it’s time for a change.”
If elected, Cooper’s priorities for the water district would be water rates, which he says have risen approximately 60 percent over two years.
“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.
To keep up with newer state regulations requiring updated infrastructure to combat carcinogenic pollutants in the water, the district received a $30 million bond to fund eight capital improvements including contaminant removal, generators and maintenance.
Cooper said a waiver was then put in to delay the work necessary to meet the new regulations.
“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.
For the fire district, Cooper said staffing is at a low point and he would increase recruitment to get more available volunteers responding to emergencies. Cooper has been a member of the Fire Department for 40 years, serving as rescue captain and engine lieutenant before his current position as captain of Engine Company 4.
Cooper is 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.
Efforts to reach Engel were unavailing.