Whether residents were for it, or against it, the Colonie EMS LifeGuard Air Rescue program has been extended until Dec. 31, as a result of a vote following the Thursday, Aug. 14, public hearing during which the hot topic was heavily debated.
Colonie Supervisor Paula Mahan reversed her decision to not enter into a new contract with New York State Police in which 12 town EMS flight medics assist in rescue missions.
The 15-year-old program was scheduled to expire Sept. 1. Five weeks ago, the supervisor gave several reasons for not wanting to renew the contract, including liability, fiscal impact and in-air respondents not being able to care for residents of the town.
United Public Service Employees Union labor relations representative Gary Favro said the program actually generates revenue and still allows enough respondents to remain on the ground. He said that while liability does exist, there is liability in every task of an EMS respondent.
The discussions between the town and EMS department on the issue have ranged from the emotional to the controversial, leading up to a climax at last week's meeting, in which the supervisor and Town Board were to vote on the contract.
The five-hour Town Board meeting centered almost entirely on a public hearing on the program, in which 10 individuals spoke in favor of it. No one in the crowd spoke against it.
Among the speakers were Favro, Regional EMS Director Michael Dailey, Albany County Comptroller Mike Connors, Director of Emergency Care at Samaritan Hospital Bruce Ushkow and several other EMS responders and town residents.
Ken Dott, who has been with the EMS since 1989, emphasized the fact that numbers should not count when it comes to saving lives.
This is our family we are talking about here, he said.
Retired Deputy EMS Chief Ron Baker pleaded with the board to reconsider the program, poking humor at the politics of the issue.