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Colonie town board renews air rescue program

The Colonie Town Board on Thursday, Dec. 18, unanimously approved the renewal of a contract with the New York State Police to continue the EMS LifeGuard Air Rescue program.

The program, which since 1993 has paired Colonie EMS responders with state police on flight rescue missions, became a controversial issue in the town over the summer when Supervisor Paula Mahan decided to not renew the program, citing what she believed to be the lack of necessity and the town's potential liability associated with the program.

The supervisor's decision to discontinue the program came to light after nearly 40 EMS responders crowded the back of a Town Board meeting on Thursday, July 10, urging her to reconsider.

While Mahan made no promises to reconsider the contract with state police, board members did schedule an August public hearing on the matter.

Flight rescue missions depart from Albany International Airport and have gone as far as the Hilltowns and Berkshires to assist victims. When they are not on missions, the more than a dozen responders who are trained to go on the flight rescues remain in the Town of Colonie.

One of Mahan's original concerns was that while the responders are on flight missions, they are not in the town, helping residents who are in need. Another her concerns was the cost of the program, in lieu of an over $19.4 million deficit the town faces.

We did take into account just the facts this is nothing personal," the supervisor said told an emotional crowd of EMS responders in August.

After an over two-hour public hearing on the topic, where several Colonie EMS responders and rescued victims spoke out in favor of the program, the supervisor and Town Board opted to extend the program until Dec. 31 so that the town could take a closer look at it before deciding whether to enter into a new contract.

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