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Rotterdam may cut town paramedics

ROTTERDAM -- Emergency services on life support.  One town is considering cutting its paramedics to save money.  But some say the move could leave residents in danger.

Rotterdam town government expects a tough budget year and is looking to save money by eliminating several full- and part-time advanced live support providers.  But there's a concern it won't stop there and public safety would be impacted.

"When you call 911, you want the ambulance and the paramedics to arrive and arrive quickly," said John Dybas, Rotterdam EMS Board President.

But, Dybas says that expectation is at risk if the town chooses to cut town-paid paramedics, and use Mohawk Ambulance for other emergency services.

"If we can save the taxpayers some money and provide them with at least the same service and I think better, I think that's our obligation," said deputy town supervisor Wayne Calder (D).

Calder believes his town can save close to half a million dollars by eliminating paramedic positions.  He blames the property tax cap for forcing a tough decision.

"I'm not saying the people here aren't good," Calder said.  "Mohawk is a bigger outfit, they can provide thirty ambulances plus if we needed them."

Rotterdam EMS collects payments from patients who require a paramedic's response.  "Any money that can be recovered for their ALS services we collect it and hand it right over to the town," Dybas said.

The whole ambulance service could lose its deal with Rotterdam, as well.  "We're having trouble filling shifts with our own people," Calder said.

Even more ambulance staffers worry if they may also need to find new jobs.

"We're not here to make money off of anybody's bad day," said Rotterdam EMS Chief of Operations Mario Farina.  "We're here to provide really good care to sick people.  That's it."

Paramedics, at least, may be offered jobs through Mohawk Ambulance, according to the town.  The town CSEA president hopes if jobs are lost, they can be restored elsewhere.

"What I ask for is for them to be placed in other jobs within the town if they wanted to consider that," said Conard Johnson, president of the Rotterdam division of the CSEA.

Mohawk Ambulance could not be reached for comment.  One town councilman suggests that Mohawk's rates are higher than Rotterdam, meaning costs would only be moved from the town to the townspeople.