Written by Victoria Caruso-Davis Friday, 27 November 2009 00:00
2009 marks the first year Hicksville residents will be able to elect a fire commissioner and water commissioner during the same election.
Last year, in an effort to meet the needs of residents, commissioners from both the Hicksville and Bethpage water districts sought to change the date of their elections. The request, which was supported by New York State Senators Craig Johnson and Carl Marcellino and New York State Assemblyman Rob Walker, was approved by the state, as well as the Towns of Oyster of Bay and Hempstead and signed into law by the governor in June 2009. Prior, Hicksville Water District elections were held in August with Bethpage’s taking place in May.
For 2009, elections for fire and water commissioner will take place Tuesday, Dec. 8 from 3 to 9 p.m. at Hicksville Fire Department Headquarters, 20 East Marie Street, and at the Levittown Parkway firehouse.
This year, one seat on the Hicksville Water District’s Board of Commissioners is up for grabs with Karl Schweitzer, current chairman, seeking re-election unopposed to a third three-year term. Information on Schweitzer is below; the fire commissioner article will appear in the Dec. 4, 2009 issue of the Hicksville Illustrated News.
Throughout his tenure as water commissioner, lifelong Hicksville resident Karl Schweitzer is most proud of working to hold the line on property taxes for five consecutive years by cutting spending and increasing non-water related revenue.
“Through several initiatives, the district was able to increase revenues by more than $3 million and earmark them for capital projects. This was accomplished by contracting with cell phone providers to erect antennas on our two elevated water storage tanks,” said Schweitzer, adding that over the past six years, the water district also increased its bottom line by contracting with an energy-demand response company to utilize its standby emergency power. “Electric demand and its peak costs occur during our peak season, this means any reduction in our energy-demand can provide substantial savings,” he said.
According to Schweitzer, water district taxes make up just 3 percent of a homeowner’s property tax bill. “Our entire system is operated with 14 employees and provides water at a cost that is on-average 10 percent lower than the national average despite the high cost of power in our region,” he said.
Schweitzer said the water district board has worked to ensure an adequate supply of clean water for future generations by adding treatment to the Plant 11 well site in 2008 and is in the process of completing a nitrate treatment system at Plant 8. “These projects enable the district to treat its water to maintain its excellence which is vital in a district facing so many water quality challenges,” he said.
The Hicksville Water District, noted Schweitzer, is aggressively pursuing those who pollute and holding them accountable for their actions. “Since 2006, the District has reached agreement with major gasoline retailers on MTBE pollutant issues and is closely monitoring pending litigation for groundwater contamination in several other locations,” he said. “Our goal is to recover the previous costs associated with treatment systems and the costs to operate these units. Additional costs for future treatment systems and maintenance are also included in the litigation.”
As a commissioner, Schweitzer is currently working on putting into action the results of the Master Plan for District Operations that projects the district’s planning efforts to combat the current contamination. He said the water district is looking to float a bond to pay the costs to meet the needs for upgrading and expanding the district’s facilities. “Particular attention is now addressing water quality issues at various plant sites. We can capitalize on this economic opportunity to retire existing debt and create additional debt at no cost to our residents,” said Schweitzer, adding that the plan is to add debt without raising current costs by shifting current operating budget capital investment line items to bond payments.
According to Schweitzer, the Hicksville Water District’s Board of Commissioners continues to develop creative ways to keep the community informed about developments in the district and increase public participation in the process. Commissioners attend local community meetings and host an annual public forum to discuss information related to the district and its residents. Additionally, he said, the district recently redesigned and launched an interactive website (www.hicksvillewater.org) designed to provide residents up-to-date information.
“Community involvement is an excellent way to eliminate doubts that residents may have regarding their water supply system. The district has not been an ‘invisible’ government entity, but rather a full community service organization, operated in a manner that is visible to all residents,” said Schweitzer. “Members of the community have always been encouraged to attend board meetings during the month and to observe the way business is conducted.”
Sharing his vision for the future, Schweitzer said, “For years, water suppliers have been cleaning up the aquifer from the aftermath of past polluters. Now our three-point approach will ensure a clean water supply for future generations through treatment of water from the aquifer, stronger legislation and more targeted, aggressive litigation.”
Schweitzer has been involved in the community with the Gregory Museum, Chamber of Commerce, Northwest Civic Association, St. Ignatius Loyola R.C. Church and the Knights of Columbus. For the past 28 years, he has been an active volunteer firefighter, serving on various committees and holding all ranks of office, including chief of department from 1996 to 1997. Professionally, Schweitzer is employed with Con Edison of New York where he manages worker safety and monitors environmental activities such as PCBs, lead, asbestos and hazardous waste issues for all of Electric Operations of Brooklyn/Queens, the largest operating group in Con Edison.
In addition to being a strong advocate for Hicksville, Schweitzer is active in matters surrounding water districts. He led the Nassau/Suffolk Water Commissioners Association (NSWCA) as its president in 2007, was recently elected to serve as the president of the Long Island Special District Association (LISDA) and is currently serving as vice chairman of the Long Island Water Conference (LIWC). Earlier this year, Schweitzer was elected chairman of the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) Safety, Health and Environment Committee at the national level and remains active on their Emergency Preparedness and Public Officials Committee.