Dems seek review of Nassau pool deal

An aerial view of the Nassau County Aquatic An aerial view of the Nassau County Aquatic Center in Eisenhower Park in East Meadow on May 11, 2011. Photo Credit: Kevin P. Coughlin

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Nassau Democrats are asking the county's financial control board to review a controversial deal that allows a privately run pool at Eisenhower Park, saying it "appears to financially benefit the third party at the expense of the county."

Legislative Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) made his request in a letter Thursday to the Nassau Interim Finance Authority. He said the permit agreement between County Executive Edward Mangano's administration and Long Island Swimming Ltd. -- approved by the Legislature's Rules Committee on Feb. 10 -- could ultimately come at an expense to the county, despite what officials have promised.

Aides to Mangano, a Republican, say the 20-year agreement with the nonprofit would only generate revenue, and therefore doesn't need NIFA approval. The contract calls for David Ferris' Long Island Swimming to spend $1.3 million to install and maintain the prefab "auxiliary" pool, which would be next to the county aquatic center at the East Meadow park.

"Long Island Swimming is paying for [the] complete pool," Ferris responded Friday. "It will be a financial benefit to the county and all those who use the aquatic center."

Ferris, who formerly managed the aquatic center but resigned in 2003 during a probe of his finances, would pay Nassau annual license fees of between $45,000 and $90,000, and would split sponsorship revenues with the county. In recent years, he and his companies have given about $14,000 to Mangano's campaign.

The administration argues that the private pool would free up lanes at the public aquatic center now taken up by Ferris' swim club, allowing other groups to rent lanes from the county. But Abrahams questions whether the revenue that will be lost by Ferris' club now being able to use his own pool (instead of the county's) can be made up by other swim teams.

Abrahams also notes that the agreement calls for Nassau to construct a new boiler room for use at the private pool.

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"In the plainest terms, the taxpayers of Nassau County deserve to know whether this is a good deal for them, or simply a great deal for Long Island Swimming," Abrahams wrote.

NIFA chairman Jon Kaiman said the board's staff and counsel would review Abrahams' request and consult with board members before making a decision. He noted that NIFA also considered reviewing the Nassau Coliseum redevelopment deal, which was pitched as having no cost to the county, but ultimately chose not to weigh in.

"We'll probably need to do a similar analysis," Kaiman said.

Spokesmen for Mangano did not respond to requests for comment on Abrahams' letter.

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