Candidates promote their vision for Port police, water district

Candidates promote their vision for Port police, water district
Police commissioner candidate Stephen Scott, right, speaks during the commissioner's debate on Tuesday at the Port Washington Library. (Photo by Luke Torrance)

One of the major issues facing the Port Washington Police Department is the move into a newer, bigger building. Stephen Scott said his background in construction will help push the process forward, which he said the current commissioner, Angela Lawlor Mullins, has failed to do.

“As the commissioner said, they are in the initial study of the new facility,” he said. “But I believe they were in the initial study last election, and probably the election before … it’s good to get new people in to maybe push the agenda forward.”

Scott and Mullins each took turns describing their vision for the department at a candidates’ night Tuesday at the Port Washington Public Library. Dozens of residents turned out for the event, hosted by the League of Women Voters of Port Washington-Manhasset, to ask the candidates questions and hear their answers.

In addition to the police commissioners, attendees also heard from the candidates for Port Washington Water District commissioner, incumbent David Brackett and challenger Peter Whitcomb.

The water commissioner portion of the event was friendlier, as Whitcomb said he had no qualms about the way the district was being run. Instead, he said he was running for the position as a way to stay involved with the water district, where he has worked for 14 years.

But the part of the event with the police commissioner candidates was more heated, with several testy exchanges. Scott said the Port department was “probably one of the best departments on the island” but said changes needed to be made.

“I would like … a little more transparency,” he said. “I would like to get people involved and hold meetings in different locations … I did attend one meeting and you weren’t there.”

Mullins, the longest serving of the department’s three commissioners (she was elected in 2010), said she missed the meeting because she was in the hospital for surgery.

Scott, who currently working as a peace officer for the Pilgrim Psychiatric Center and general topics and defensive tactics instructor for the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, said his construction background would also help with union negotiations. The department’s contract with the police union expired in December 2017 and has not been replaced.

Mullins described herself as a steady hand. A former detective with the New York City police, she said the job was a way to give back to the community and stressed that she was more attuned to the department’s issues than her opponent.

“To date, there have been 23 police commissioners meetings and numerous budget hearings, and my opponent has only attended one meeting,” she said. “Why would someone vote for a police commissioner who has only participated in one meeting?”

The duo agreed that more focus should be put on improving communication with the Port Washington school district and doing more to protect students. They disagreed on how the next union contract should be handled. Scott said the commissioners should seek five-year contracts, which he said would give the department more stability, while Mullins said the department currently had four-year contracts.

The water district candidates, meanwhile, agreed on almost everything. Both said more work had to be done on upgrading the water mains, many of which are old and too small. Both said that salt water intrusion was a top concern for the district. And both said a study should be done on the environmental effects of allowing New York City to temporarily access the aquifers used for Long Island’s drinking water.

“One of the concerns we have is that the amount of money they’re spending to put those wells back in service, it doesn’t necessarily indicate to us that they intend to take it out of service,” Brackett said. “Our recourse is to work through New York state … and the city to come up with a solution to the problem that does not adversely affect either side.”

Brackett, who has served as commissioner since 1992, said his experience, leadership, innovation and advocacy made him fit for the position. Whitcomb touted his years of service with the district and discussed his time as the captain of the Atlantic Hook and Ladder Co. of the Port Washington Fire Department.

Voting will take place on Tuesday, Dec. 11, from noon to 9 p.m. at the Polish American Hall.

Questions were asked on cards submitted to the moderator instead of asking the candidates directly, as had been done at past local debates. A spokeswoman for the League of Women Voters said they would not use the card system again in future local debates.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at [email protected], by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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