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Jon Kaiman, former NIFA chief, backed pacts for artificial turf

Jon Kaiman, seen April 7, 2015, approved an

Jon Kaiman, seen April 7, 2015, approved an $8 million contract being used in part to install artifical turf at some county ball fields even though control board members never voted for the deal. Credit: Uli Seit

Jon Kaiman, the former chairman of Nassau’s financial control board, approved an $8 million contract being used in part to install artificial turf at some county ball fields even though control board members never voted for the deal and have blocked past proposals to pay for artificial turf.

Kaiman, a former North Hempstead Town supervisor who recently stepped down as chairman of the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, in January 2015 signed off on an $8 million two-year “requirements” contract for the LandTek Group of Amityville.

Under NIFA guidelines, the chairman is allowed to approve contracts of up to $5 million; the entire NIFA board must approve deals costing $5 million or more.

But Kaiman, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to succeed retiring Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), said he understood the contract was for $4 million and was not aware that it included installation of turf fields.

Under the contract, LandTek is renovating six ball fields at Eisenhower Park and two softball fields at Cantiague Park. The company is using artificial turf to “patch” the fields in Eisenhower in East Meadow, as well as installing new artificial turf infields at Cantiague in Hicksville.

“The contract came to me after being reviewed by staff and recommended for approval by staff,” Kaiman said. “If it met all criteria required for approval, I signed off on the contract.”

Records show the contract and backup information provided to the Nassau County Legislature say the pact was an $8 million two-year contract that allowed up to $4 million in spending a year. Its specifications include providing artificial turf.

“The administration’s intentions were transparent and specifically stated in the contract,” said Brian Nevin, spokesman for County Executive Edward Mangano.

The legislature’s Rules Committee approved the requirements contract for LandTek in December 2014, specifying its term was two years and estimating expenditures at $8 million — $4 million a year. County Comptroller George Maragos’ office also said it considered the pact an $8 million contract.

Public works officials told lawmakers that LandTek submitted the lowest responsible bid.

Unlike single project contracts, the vendor for a requirements contract submits prices for numerous items and works only when called by the county.

A staff summary presented to the Rules Committee said the contract was for “the reconstruction and/or rehabilitation of highways, drainage systems, pavement, bridges, parking lots, parks related work and emergency work” during a 24-month period. It specified an annual spending “cap” of $4 million.

“Certainly, we did not see that as a turf field contract,” said Kaiman.

“A requirements contract is generally an ongoing contract where individual projects still need to be approved,” he said. “I believe we saw this as a $4 million contract. Otherwise it would have been submitted to the board for approval.”

Kaiman provided the NIFA staff memo he received that recommended approval of the contract, saying it fell between $500,000 and $5 million.

“This, however, is another indication of why a contract review committee at NIFA is helpful, so that more eyes are available to review contracts,” Kaiman said.

Because of the county’s budget problems, NIFA recently created a committee to review proposed pacts and also directed the county to provide more information about them.

As supervisor, Kaiman received $8,500 in campaign donations from LandTek while his campaign has donated $11,250 to the charitable foundation run by Marty Lyons, a former New York Jet who serves as LandTek’s vice president of marketing and public relations.

NIFA member Chris Wright, the board’s most vocal critic of the county’s focus on artificial turf, said, “Each turf field will serve as an icon to a period of metastatic acquiescence during which deficits and borrowing rose.”

NIFA member Paul Annunziato said he couldn’t comment without knowing the details. But he said NIFA staff is “second to none” and has confidence in their reviews.

NIFA declined last July to consider an $11 million contract to install artificial turf at Eisenhower Park ball fields after rejecting a similar $8.1 million plan in 2011 to install artificial turf ball fields in Cantiague Park. In both instances, NIFA members said the county could not afford artificial turf.

The county built two artificial turf baseball fields at Cantiague despite NIFA’s rejection. Two county legislators’ project funds had paid for one field, while LandTek donated the turf at the other.

Work is underway at ball fields in both Eisenhower and Cantiague. A sign at Eisenhower reads “Restoring our parks, Renovating Ball fields . . . Oct. 1st 2015 — April 15th 2016.”

Deputy County Executive Ed Ward acknowledged that Nassau originally had proposed 700,000 square feet of drainage, lighting, sidewalks and ball field improvements costing about $11 million at Eisenhower Park. After NIFA balked, “the county pulled the project back and it was agreed that the county would improve only 35,000 square feet of one section of the park,” Ward said.

“It was further agreed that the county would use an existing requirements contract with LandTek, which had already passed NIFA approval, to perform the drainage work and use artificial turf to patch the ball fields rather than completely redo them,” Ward said.

Most of the work is for improved drainage, Ward said.

The Mangano administration advised the legislature and comptroller in December that it would use $400,000 to improve softball fields C and D in Cantiague park, including installation of synthetic turf infields.

To date, the county has assigned LandTek $2.5 million worth of work under the requirements contract, including streetscape improvements and jail parking lot repairs.

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