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Nassau approves Morgan Stanley contract

A file photo of Cedar Creek Water Pollution

A file photo of Cedar Creek Water Pollution Control Plant in Wantagh. (June 29, 2010) Credit: Daniel Goodrich

Nassau lawmakers Monday approved a contract with Morgan Stanley & Co. that will pay the financial services firm at least $5 million as part of a plan to privatize the county's sewage treatment system.

Nassau is preparing to select a private operator for the sprawling system, which includes three treatment plants and 3,000 miles of sewers.

The public-private partnership could net Nassau $865 million, according to county documents. Morgan Stanley would broker the deal with a private operator and an investor who would fund the transaction.

Under the contract approved Monday by the legislature's Rules Committee, the firm will receive 0.75 percent of the value of the transaction, a minimum of $5 million.

Chief Deputy County Executive Rob Walker said Monday that a private operator could run the sewage treatment system "at least $30 million cheaper" than the county."

The Rules Committee vote -- with four Republicans voting for and three Democrats against -- marked final legislative approval of the contract. But the Nassau Interim Finance Authority, the state monitoring board that controls the county's finances, has final say on the Morgan Stanley contract, and NIFA has expressed skepticism.

"So this is illogical -- more money wasted," said Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams of Freeport.

Walker said that because of NIFA's concerns, the administration devised a proposal to pay Morgan Stanley less than originally planned.

Some Nassau residents expressed concern that their rates would rise under a private operator.

"Where we're now paying $185 a year, we could be paying $185 a month," said Helen Manas of Merrick.

In other matters, the full legislature Monday held a public hearing on a Mangano proposal to provide the county police commissioner with sole discretion on punishing officers accused of serious disciplinary problems.

Police Benevolent Association members faced with a departmental charge resulting in more than a 10-day suspension can opt for binding arbitration. Detectives, sergeants and above that rank don't have that option.

"We want to make things equal for everybody," said Police Commissioner Thomas Dale.

But PBA president James Carver said the arbitration process is part of the union's contract, and that he would take "whatever legal remedies are necessary to maintain it."

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