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Lack of MVAC Contract Spurs Hassett’s Run for Village Board

Malverne village trustee hopeful Dr. Carol Hassett talks to Patch about her motivations for running and goals if elected.

Malverne residents have just 15 days to decide who they will elect to serve out the three years that remain of the final term on the village board. 

In July, Callahan’s widow, Trustee Patricia Canzoneri-Callahan, to fill his seat until March 20,  2012,  when a special election would be held.

On this day, village residents will have two choices – keep on the board or elect her challenger, Dr. Carol Hassett. As election day draws closer Patch aims to serve as your go-to resource for information about both candidates, the issues and everything you need to know to cast your vote with confidence. This week, we’ll get to know both candidates better, starting today with Dr. Hassett, who recently gave a one-on-one interview with us about her motivations for running for the board and what she would bring to the table if elected.

MEET THE CANDIDATES: Dr. Carol Hassett

It’s no secret that between the Malverne village board and the Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps have been tense.

“We’re in the fourth rendition of the contract,” says Hassett, who is vice chair of MVAC’s board.

Without one, MVAC is not permitted to move into the building on Hempstead Avenue that the village erected last year to serve as a headquarters for the Corps.

“The Malverne Volunteer Ambulance Corps not being inside that building,” Hassett says, was her “primary motivation” for on Feb. 14 to run for the village board, under the newly formed Common Sense Party.

“We really need to get in there. We can’t provide the level of service that’s needed without that building,” she says.

MVAC has been struggling to fill coverage gaps during the daytime weekday hours, when many of its volunteers are working and unable to respond to calls. In these instances, Nassau County Police send one of their ambulances but then bill the recipient of their services – a double whammy for village residents who already pay for MVAC’s ambulatory care through their taxes.

To address this problem, MVAC has been recruiting non-residents to cover these time slots but since they are not local, they need a place within the village where they could stay when on-call. The new building, located near the Malverne DPW buildings, was intended to serve as this spot, but as it continues to sit empty, Hassets says MVAC is losing many of these out-of-town members.

“Come March 31, we’ll be losing another one,” she adds.

The major stumbling blocks when it comes to contract negotiations, Hassett says, are sections of it that would require it to guarantee a high level of coverage. The two parties have yet to settle on the exact percentage of service MVAC must provide, according to Hassett, but she says there’s a line in the contract that states if service drops below this figure for six consecutive months, then the village will have the right to terminate the agreement.

“We’d be thrown out of the building,” she says. “We’re very reticent to sign something that has that in it. We are volunteers… we'd love to provide 100 percent coverage all the time but we can’t get close without the building and we are frightened that if we can’t make the commitment we can get thrown out.”

What also worries Hassett is not only what’s in the latest version of the contract, but also what’s missing from it.

“The old contract had in it that if the ambulance failed we wouldn't be held responsible,” she says, but this clause is absent from this version, which means if the MVAC can’t respond because one of its ambulances breaks down, the village can penalize them financially, she explained. “Anyone who owns a car or a truck knows that sometimes you can’t control these things,” she added.

Hassett says the village could also reduce the amount of money it pays out to MVAC for any calls it responds to outside of its borders including to neighboring Lynbrook, Franklin Square or Valley Stream, and unincorporated parts of Malverne.

“We had one case where a woman from Franklin Square called the Malverne Police Department,” she says. “Malverne Police paged us out and it became our call. When we brought this up to the village they said we'd be penalized…If Malverne Police, the Fire Department or any village agency called us, they should all be treated as an emergency but that's missing from the contract now.”

Hassett has noticed that since she announced her candidacy, the village has stepped up its efforts to settle the contract. The parties have had more meetings in recent weeks than they have since they started negotiations in August, however, they still continue to take “one step forward and two steps back.”

A major problem she pointed out is that MVAC is asked not to bring its attorney to the meetings. “We can say we are happy with the contract but until we show it to our attorney we don’t really know,” she says.

When asked why MVAC chooses to operate independently and not become an official village department, which would eliminate the need for a contract and allow them to use the new building without paying rent, Hassett said,”If we couldn’t get this contract done, what are the chances we could ever do that…to get trust from people you have to give trust and it’s not coming.”

If she was elected, Hassett, a 40-year resident who has a license in teaching and psychology, says she’d like to see the village become less “over-regulated.”

“There are times that we let regulations rule us,” she says. “It seems like once you are here they want everything to be a certain away with very little leeway. People need to have an opportunity to present their case.” 

Although Hassett does not have a problem with any individual currently on the board, she does take issue with their attitude as a collective group, saying, “When they sit up there as a board they take the attitude of ‘We're right and this is the way it's going to be.’ There’s a lot of underlying frustration among residents.”

Hassett says her 26 years on the Malverne library board has given her some insight into the village’s budget, which she says is mainly comprised of salaries and benefits, not frivolous things. “Maybe negotiations need to be tightened a little,” she adds.

That said, she isn’t against the village overriding the tax cap so that it can be protected from any penalties if the budget should exceed the cap but she doesn’t think it should intentionally go over it.

To demonstrate her belief that public service should in fact be a service to the public and not a career, Hassett has pledged to forgo any health benefits she’d be entitled to if elected, giving this money back to the village, and donate 75 percent of her salary to local organizations. One quarter would go to MVAC, another to Our Lady of Lourdes Church and another to the American Legion Post 44. The rest would be put into a college fund for her grandchildren.

“People stay too long, they make politics a job rather than a commitment to help their community,” she says. “You should go in, do what you have to do you and get out. If you really like it, you'll do it for nothing as I have for the library and MVAC board.”

B. Johnston March 05, 2012 at 04:01 PM
While I applaud all volunteers, I can't understand MVAC's position. They do not want to be a village entity, but they want all of the privledges of one. They asked for a building so they can provide 24/7 coverage, which would greatly benefit all the residents, now they have a home but still won't committ to 24/7 coverage. This appears more personal than putting the needs of the residents first. No one has their cake and eats it too. We need people on the board who will tackle ALL village issues, not just their own personal one. Wouldn't this be a conflict of interest for Dr. Hassett? Courious how many MVAC calls Dr. Hassett does a week? I do agree sometimes a change is for the better. Dr. Hassett has been involved in MVAC for a very long time, maybe new leadership is needed.

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