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Air rescue program continues to stir emotions

Just as the smoke began to clear over the fracas surrounding the continuation of the Colonie EMS LifeGuard Air Rescue Program, one individual has pointed a finger at state Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Newtonville, accusing him of not taking a stand on the program, which has been a hot-button issue in his district for months.

The program, which has been a collaborative effort between Colonie EMS and the New York State Police for the past 15 years, involves helicopter rescue missions to locations where a ground medic might not be able to reach as quickly. The LifeGuard program has been scrutinized in recent weeks by Colonie Town Supervisor Paula Mahan and Town Attorney Michael Magguilli, who say it is costing more than it brings in, as well as being a liability to the town and not serving its residents.

According to Halfmoon Conservative Party Chairman John Wasielewski, who is challenging Reilly for the 109th District seat, the assemblyman should have spoken up.

The basic function of government is to protect the lives and safety of its citizens, he said. "This is a regional issue and certainly one that deserves his [Reilly's] attention."

Wasielewski said he was surprised to see that Reilly had remained silent throughout all of the discussions about the LifeGuard program, considering it is located within his district.

"Obviously Bob is aware of the scenario," Wasielewski said. "I just wish that he was a little bit more vocal about this."

According to Reilly, he stayed out of the issue because he felt the town should come to a determination on its own whether it wants to continue to operate it or not.

"Other than being a citizen, it's not my business," he said.

Reilly did say if the town had asked him to step in, he would.

Following a public hearing and debate about the LifeGuard program held Thursday, Aug. 14, Mahan agreed to extend it until the end of the year.

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