Franklin Square and Elmont residents will vote for one fire commissioner in their respective communities on Dec. 10. The commissioners are volunteers, overseeing their towns’ fire department, creating its budget and ensuring that its firefighters have the proper equipment.
In Franklin Square
In Franklin Square, incumbent Phil Malloy is running to retain his seat against challenger Chris Mollish.
Malloy, 57, has been a member of the Franklin Square & Munson Fire Department for 38 years, and has served on the five-member fire commissioners board for 15 years. During his time in office, he said, the board has updated its breathing apparatuses, purchased new trucks and ensured that the equipment is the same at every firehouse. “All of this stuff is getting done without raising your taxes,” he told residents at a Nov. 12 forum, adding that the district is audited three times a year and is “not missing a penny.”
The district, Malloy said, buys equipment in bulk to reduce costs and applies for grants “so that we don’t have to raise [taxes] and put the burden on taxpayers.”
His biggest accomplishment, however, was creating the 9/11 memorial in Rath Park, which was installed in 2014, he said. Malloy served at ground zero for a month as a county fire commissioner following the terrorist attacks, and worked with State Assemblyman Ed Ra to acquire the materials needed for the monument. Now, Malloy said, the Fire Department holds its 9/11 ceremony there every year.
During the forum, he also explained the reasoning behind some of the board’s more recent decisions. He said that the commission bought the building on Hempstead Turnpike, which had served as the old chief’s room and boardroom, and started renovations on it two years ago because the interior was unsafe. The department converted it into office space and an inventory room in the basement.
Additionally, he said, the commission needed to purchase a new military surplus truck for $24,000 because it had to spend between $120,000 and $150,000 on renovations to the old truck, following Superstorm Sandy. He explained that the commission purchased a new one so it would not have to spend money on “all those repairs” the next time there is a major storm.
“I think I’ve made a difference in the fire district in Franklin Square,” Malloy told the Herald, “as well as made a difference to the residents of Franklin Square.”
His opponent, Chris Mollish, has also been a member of the department for 38 years, serving as lieutenant and captain of Engine Company No. 2. Mollish, 60, was also a New York City corrections officer, and was assigned to the Special Operations Division following the Sept. 11 attacks. In that position, he said, he set up critical communications at ground zero.
He is now a certified representative for the Motorola Corporation and has experience managing budgets for Hauppauge-based Multi-Media Communications.
He decided to run, he told the Herald, because the “fire district needs to loosen up a little on the rules,” attributing the department’s low membership to its strictness. The department currently has only about 100 members serving nearly 30,000 residents, and Mollish said, the department could reach 1,600 calls this year. “We’re down on manpower,” he said.
Under the fire district’s percentage rules, he said, new recruits are required to respond to 25 percent of fire calls and 30 percent of Emergency Medical Services calls, while also attending the department’s training seminars. “It’s becoming harder and harder to become a volunteer fireman,” Mollish said, adding that the new rules are as time-consuming as a full-time job.
“If I get in there, I’m going to ease the burden on members,” he said. “I’m trying to do the right thing for everybody.”
The Franklin Square & Munson fire commissioners race will be held on Dec. 10 from 1 to 9 p.m. at the Franklin Square & Munson Fire Department, 841 Liberty Place.
In Elmont, Robert Chernow is the incumbent, being challenged by Thomas Bains, who could not be reached for comment as of press time.
Chernow, 50, has served in the Fire Department for 32 years, and was lieutenant and chief of the Hook and Ladder Company No. 2 in 1997 and chief of the department 10 years later. “My life’s basically been dedicated to the Fire Department,” he said. “I know the ins and outs of our fire service.”
During his time in office, Chernow said, the commission has purchased a great deal of equipment, updated its bylaws, acquired new vehicles and passed resolutions to ensure that its members have health insurance that covers cancer treatment. Fires burn differently with different chemicals these days, he said, making firefighters more likely to develop cancer.
The biggest issue, according to Chernow, is retaining members because there is a lot of training involved, and new recruits must also tend to 25 percent of the calls. To make it easier, he said, the Elmont Fire District works with the firefighters’ schedules to find times when they can respond to calls.
He said the district makes sure it gets the best prices on equipment, and said that he and the other members are doing their best. “When you love something you’re doing, it definitely shows,” Chernow said, and “we’ve done a very excellent job of doing everything.”
Elections for the Elmont fire commissioner position will be held on Dec. 10 at the Elmont Fire District, 100 School Road, from noon to 9 p.m.