Oceanside residents will go to the polls on Dec. 10 to vote for a contended seat on the Oceanside Fire District Board of Commissioners.
The polls will be open from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Columbia Firehouse, at 26 Smith St.
Charlie Fortin, 63, who has held the position for five years, is hoping to retain his seat on the five-member board. His opponent is Michael Graham, 28.
“During my campaign for election in 2008 to this position, I stressed the fact that as an Oceanside resident, homeowner and taxpayer, I was aware of the fiscal challenges that many of my neighbors were facing,” said Fortin, a lifelong Oceanside resident who has three children and two grandchildren. “I promised fiscal prudence would be a top priority. I am proud to say that this challenge has been met head-on by me and my fellow commissioners. As a group, we remain vigilant, and have the record to prove it.”
He added, “During my five-year term in office, the Oceanside Fire District has purchased several new fire apparatus. Not only is this equipment state of the art, but was also purchased in an affordable manner, which benefits the taxpayers in Oceanside and keeps our dedicated firefighters’ safety as the most important priority. In the year 2012, our community was devastated by Superstorm Sandy. I could not be any prouder of the volunteer firefighters from our community who stayed on call for countless hours. We were able to accommodate the needs of many community members not only with the storm-related emergencies and the many calls for assistance, but also by using Fire Department facilities to allow residents a location to re-charge cell phones, a warm place to rest, and an information center that proved very helpful to many residents.”
Fortin concluded, “I am asking for the support of the community that I have been a part of for over 60 years so I may see the projects I’ve worked very diligently on come to a successful conclusion. I have fulfilled my promise to be fiscally prudent, and will continue to do so if re-elected. I will continue to be cognizant of the Fire District budget while bringing the best services for our community at the most affordable costs. My promise to the firefighters of our community is to remain vigilant in obtaining the best equipment with the best training that they need to remain ‘Always First,’ a time-honored commitment that the Board of Fire Commissioners and the Oceanside Fire Department still believe in.”
Graham, who owns a floral business in Franklin Square, was born and raised in Oceanside, and is an Oceanside High School graduate. He joined the Fire Department in 2003, and has been a lieutenant and captain.
“Throughout my years in Oceanside, I have helped various community efforts, including delivering food and toys to those in need, educating the community about fire prevention and supporting numerous community organizations,” he said. “I served as captain during one of the most difficult times for the Oceanside Fire Department, Hurricane Sandy. I spent countless hours leading members as we handled the seemingly endless stream of calls from the residents of Oceanside looking for help.”
Graham said that, a year after Sandy, the department is no better prepared than it was before the storm. “We have not purchased equipment needed for future storms,” he said. “Firehouses are still not completed. Recently, the Board of Fire Commissioners has approved a $3 million renovation and spent over $600,000 to purchase a house, but has done nothing to improve our preparedness.”
Graham insisted that the main focus of the fire commissioners should be the daily activity of the Fire District — the management of employees, the maintenance of buildings and the purchase of equipment. “Commissioners should not be in charge at fires, auto accidents or medical emergencies,” he said. “That is the job of the chiefs, not the commissioners.”
Asked why residents should vote for him, he said, “My experience as a manager of a small business allows me to understand the importance of fiscal responsibility and how to best use the assets available. It’s time to look at the future of the Fire District. We need plans in place so that the district is on a stable fiscal footing for the future. Taxes are high in Oceanside and Nassau County. It’s not an accomplishment to remain under the 2 percent state cap. We should do better, and have no tax increases.”
The Board of Commissioners oversees the Fire Department budget and makes major purchases, while the day-to-day operations of the department are handled by the chiefs.
Candidates must gather 25 signatures of registered Oceanside voters to get on the ballot. The deadline for submitting petitions is Nov. 28.