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Colonie town board renews air rescue program

The decision was voted on after United Public Service Employees Union Labor Relations Representative Gary Favro, who has been defending the program, pledged to pay for an audit of the program to be completed with a cost-benefit analysis to satisfy the supervisor's concerns.

According to Favro, he was never taken up on his offer as the town had decided to complete an audit of the EMS Department as a whole, and to his knowledge, the specific portion of the audit that applies to the LifeGuard Air Rescue has not yet been completed.

As the Dec. 31 deadline began to creep up, the supervisor decided to keep the program alive, with some restrictions. Those specify that only the supervisor is able to adopt internal rules for the program, as opposed to the Colonie EMS chief, no family member of an EMS responder is allowed to fly on the helicopter and no member of EMS personnel is allowed to sit in the pilot or co-pilot seat.

According to Town Attorney Michael Magguilli, those rules were added to the new contract to further decrease the town's liability in the event of a crash, specifically the rule about EMS personnel sitting in the pilot and co-pilot seat.

"By doing that, they become flight crew. Now they're not just acting as Colonie EMS, but also unpaid flight crew for the state of New York and our liability becomes even greater," Magguilli said.

A 100-mile rule sparked some discussion at the Dec. 18 before the final contract was approved.

While Magguilli said the 100-mile rule was a part of the original contract between the town and state police, Favro argued that there are many locations the flight medics travel to when on a mission that exceed 100 miles -- one of which being the nearest burn center in Westchester, which Favro estimates to be about 125 miles away.

Favro said hopes that state police will work with the town to come up with a more reasonable distance that accommodates all emergencies.""

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