Posted at: 11/19/2013 12:12 AM
By: Dan Levy
ROTTERDAM - As of midnight Monday, emergency medical calls in Rotterdam are no longer being dispatched to the local rescue squad. Instead, unless the caller specifically requests local EMT's, a 911 dispatcher will contact Mohawk Ambulance.
The change over is not sitting well with many town residents. Many of them were angry enough about the change, but when about 150 residents (many of them Rotterdam EMT's) showed up at a neighborhood association meeting Monday night, expecting to hear an explanation from town officials, and those officials didn't show up, the crowd became infuriated.
After 77 years of service, there are many reasons why Rotterdam residents want to keep their local emergency squad, response time is one of them.
""If somebody has a heart attack, the REMS is there in less than three minutes, so at least you have a chance," said Claudia Schaffer, a town resident.
Money is another issue.
"It's going to cost the taxpayers a lot in the end," said Janie Lynn, also a town resident, "Once we lose REMS, it's going to be hard to get them back."
But what's happening now is that, for some reason, the town is phasing out REMS and replacing it with Mohawk Ambulance. Town board member Bob Godlewski told the crowd its something he never voted for.
"I am getting bombarded with emails and phone calls asking me why," Godlewski says, "I wish I knew why."
Towns people turned out at the Highbridge Neighborhood Association meeting Monday night hoping, and expecting to hear from town officials who made the change, but they never showed up.
That's when the meeting turned into a political free-for-all, and the angered residents began a lively discussion about how to keep REMS.
One idea was a petition, circulated at the meeting, and intended to be submitted to the state attorney general and the state comptroller requesting an investigation, believing that Mohawk is getting the town contract because the son-in-law of a town official works there.
"Unfortunately that's the only recourse that the citizenry has in New York State because the legislature will not pass a recall election bill," says Jim Alderdice, a town resident who says he's researched the issue in recent weeks.
In the meantime, even though Rotterdam 911 calls will now be directed to Mohawk, people can still request REMS.
"As much as we want to continue service, we have to have the money coming in to pay the bills," says John Dybas, president of the board of REMS, "This is going to hurt us right now. We're going to lose a lot of calls because of what's going on with the dispatch."
Dybas says he hasn't received any official town notification about the change, and he's not sure why they're making the change.
Residents are vowing to pack the next town board meeting on December 5th hoping to get answers.