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Town of Colonie finalizes LifeGuard contract

Is the flight program dangerous? A lot of what we are asked to do is dangerous! she said. "Working with emotionally disturbed patients is dangerous, treating patients with AIDS, hepatitis and other blood-borne diseases is dangerous. Is the board suggesting we should stop all of these activities? We dare say no."

That meeting sparked a several-months-long public debate between the supervisor and EMS personnel, culminating at an Aug. 14 public hearing in which the Town Board voted to extend the program until Dec. 31, at which time officials would decide whether to re-enter a contract with state police.

During the five-hour meeting, Republican Councilman Brian Hogan made two attempts to amend the resolution, proposing at first the town extend the contract until Dec. 31, 2009, as well as another proposal to extend it to July 1, 2009. Both attempts failed.

In December, however, the Town Board decided to enter into a new contract after voting to keep the program alive, but with certain regulations.

Those regulations included only allowing the supervisor to adopt internal rules for the program, as opposed to the Colonie EMS chief; restricting family members of EMS personnel from flying on the helicopter; and prohibiting EMS personnel from sitting in the pilot or co-pilot seat.

The resolution adopted March 12 removed the provision banning EMS responders from the cockpit.

Magguilli said he is pleased the town was able to reach the new agreement with State Police, as the previous arrangement put the town in a bad position.

"Essentially, our people were acting as unpaid state employees," Magguilli said.

United Public Service Employees Union Labor Representative Gary Favro, who has been defending the Colonie EMS personnel throughout the controversy, said this agreement is good for the town and police. Favro said having EMS personnel in the co-pilot seat helps with the safety of the flights.

"An extra pair of eyes when you're going into a landing zone is a good thing," he said.

Favro also said it is beneficial to have those eyes be those of EMS personnel, as that person is an added medic who can assist in the missions.

Overall, Favro said, he is pleased the contract has been renewed.

"I think it's a win-win for everybody " the town, the community, the EMS service," he said. "In general, I think people will be happy."

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