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Rotterdam board votes to keep local EMS service

ROTTERDAM -- The town board voted 3-2 Wednesday evening to keep Rotterdam EMS as its primary ambulance provider. Earlier this year, it switched to Mohawk until a five year contract could be awarded for 2014.

About 200 people packed the meeting to hear the board decision. Even though there was not a public hearing on the issue, about a dozen people spoke during privilege of the floor. 

In its proposal, REMS said it would keep four ambulances in the town, with at least two paramedic ambulances. Mohawk's proposal called for two paramedic ambulances.

Most residents spoke in favor of keeping REMS, which employes 47 people, as the town ambulance service. They expressed concern about losing a local provider and that Mohawk, which serves many area cities and towns, would not keep enough ambulances in Rotterdam.

"Mohawk has a history of running a professional organization. i thought they would have served the needs of the town best," said Supervisor Harry Buffardi, who voted against keeping REMS.

The debate also centered around whether REMS could provide the services it stated since it has only recently offered paramedic services. Several years ago, REMS had financial troubles and asked for a tax district that was ultimately voted down.

"We now operate strictly like a business.  We have a five-year plan, we are operating in the black, we do not owe any long term debt, we have a plan on replacing equipment and we have no plan on coming back for a tax district," said Dean Romano with REMS.

Mohawk will continue to provide mutual aid response to the town when needed, as it has in the past. Mohawk leaders would not say if it would submit another proposal when the contract comes up again in five years.

They issued the following statement concerning the vote:

"We are disappointed the board did not choose Mohawk Ambulance Service, as we submitted the best proposal to serve the people of Rotterdam. We respect that decision, however, and respect what has been a transparent and public discussion over the past few weeks. We will of course continue to serve the town in a primary capacity through the rest of the year."