Hampton Bays Race Is Only Contested Fire District Bout In Western Southampton Town

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Tuesday’s fire district commissioner elections will be a relatively quiet affair on the western end of Southampton Town as the only contested contest will be taking place in Hampton Bays.

In that race, longtime commissioner Gerard Buckley II will look to defend his seat from challenger Christopher Langsdorf. The winner will earn a five-year seat on the board.

The other fire commissioner elections in Eastport, Flanders, Westhampton Beach and East Quogue are all uncontested.

Polls will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. at each respective firehouse, with the exception of the East Quogue Fire District, where polls will be open from 5:30 until 9 p.m. on December 10.

The boards of fire commissioners are the governing bodies of the local fire districts, setting annual tax rates and adopting budgets. Commissioners receive no compensation for their services.

First elected to office in 2003, Mr. Buckley said he has been a volunteer firefighter since 1981 and the outfit’s longest serving commissioner. His opponent, Mr. Langsdorf, boasts 25 years of volunteer service with the department and, he notes, he has the pedigree to be a successful commissioner.

“I’m a third-generation firefighter, my grandfather is a charter member and served as a commissioner, and my father served as a commissioner,” Mr. Langsdorf said. “I was a 3rd assistant chief and I’m trying to follow in the footsteps of my family.”

The Hampton Bays native is the foreman and manager of the Southampton Town Central Garage and said his knowledge of trucks and equipment would make him an asset to the commissioners. He also said he wants to “hold the line on taxes.”

Mr. Buckley, a Hampton Bays resident, owns two businesses—GBS Custom Designs and Buckley Contracting—and said his knowledge of construction came in handy during the department’s building of the substation on Ponquogue Avenue and when the district renovated the Main Street firehouse in 2004. He said his experiences managing his own businesses, and leading the department as fire chief between 1999 and 2001, have come in handy during his time on the board.

“I’m a firefighter and I’m a businessman, plus I’ve already been on the job for nine-and-a-half years and I’ve been chief,” he said. “My competitor, as far as I know, has never been to a board meeting and is running on a platform that he’s a third-generation firefighter.”

Mr. Langsdorf declined to say why he would be better suited for the position.

Also in Hampton Bays, Fire District Treasurer Christine Kenny, the wife of fire commission chairman Kevin Kenny, is seeking reelection to a three-year term and she is unopposed. She has served as district treasurer since being appointed to the post in 2009, after serving as deputy treasurer since 2002. She was reelected in 2010.

Ms. Kenny declined to say how much she earns annually in her post, and her salary for the coming year is not specified in the district’s $2.9 million budget for 2014, which is posted online.

A 2011 New York State Comptroller audit revealed that, in 2009, Ms. Kenny improperly reserved more than $310,000 for purchases that were never made by the fire district. The audit states that the money could have been used to “increase its capital reserves, pay off debt, finance one-time expenses or reduce district property taxes.”

Uncontested Races

In Flanders, Rob Merker is running unopposed for his second five-year term. He has served as a member of the Flanders Fire Department, which recently celebrated its 65 anniversary, for close to 23 years.

Mr. Merker, a resident of the hamlet, previously served as captain of the department twice, and served as chief in 2000. He works as a foreman at Riverhead Building Supply.

As commissioner, Mr. Merker said he hopes to continue to serve the firefighters, as well as the community. “I think we have a lot of heart,” he said.

Polls will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Flanders Firehouse off Firehouse Lane.

To the south, Westhampton Beach Fire District Commissioner Dean Culver is also running unopposed for his third five-year term. The Southampton Town Board appointed him to serve when the district was established in 2002, and he was elected to his first full term the next year.

Mr. Culver, a Westhampton resident who owns the H.R. Culver Plumbing and Heating Company, has served as a member of the Westhampton Beach Fire Department for 37 years, and he served as chief from 1995 to 1997.

He said he will continue to focus in his next term on the construction of the new $15.7 million firehouse, which voters approved earlier this year, and the transition to the temporary headquarters on Sea Breeze Avenue in Westhampton.

Polls will be open at the Sunset Avenue firehouse from 6 to 9 p.m.

Keith Kostuk is unopposed in his bid for a third five-year term as a commissioner of the Eastport Fire District. He lives in the hamlet, and has served the Eastport Fire Department, which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary, since 1984.

An employee of Kurt Weiss Greenhouses in Center Moriches, Mr. Kostuk has served as treasurer of the department since the mid-1990s. He said his goal for the next term is to do what is best for the fire department and its firefighters, while also keeping the best interest of the taxpayers in mind.

Voters can cast their ballots between 6 and 9 p.m. at the Union Avenue firehouse.

Aaron Sacks is the lone candidate running to replace outgoing East Quogue Fire Commissioner Mark Gregory. A 17-year member of the fire department, Mr. Sacks served as chief in 2009 and 2010.

Improved recruitment and fresh ideas are what Mr. Sacks, who works as a real estate agent for Town and Country Real Estate in Westhampton Beach, hopes to bring to his first five-year term.

East Quogue Fire District Treasurer Nancy Knotoff also is running unopposed and is seeking her eighth three-year term. Commissioners have set aside $14,100 for her salary in their nearly $1.27 million budget for 2014.

Ms. Knotoff said her goals for her upcoming term are to act in the best interests of taxpayers and to attain a grant to buy a new fire truck.

Voters can cast their ballots from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Montauk Highway firehouse.

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