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Paramedics offered housing and jobs Hurricane Katrina victims sought

A Pennsylvania ambulance service owned by Western New Yorkers is making a unique offer to New Orleans paramedics left jobless by Hurricane Katrina.

Meadville Area Ambulance Service in Meadville, Pa., is offering up to three full-time jobs paying $600 per week, in addition to a year of free housing, said Alex Kowtun, one of the service's owners.

"I'm sure there's paramedics there that have lost their homes and their jobs," he said.

The offer is being promoted on an Internet discussion forum for emergency medical service personnel, and was written about in Meadville's newspaper. No one has acted on it so far.

Communications disruptions caused by Katrina might be a reason, Kowtun said. "I don't think it's getting to the right people."

Kowtun was in New Orleans for a conference just before Katrina struck, but managed to fly out just ahead of it.

The owners of the ambulance service had previously bought a furnished, 2,000-square-foot house next door to the ambulance station in Meadville, with the idea that paramedics could live there. Since no one was using it, the owners decided to make it available as free lodging to as many as three paramedics who survived the hurricane and were willing to relocate for jobs.

The Meadville service employs 25. Kowtun said there is a shortage of paramedics in Western Pennsylvania, so the relocating paramedics would also help the community.

Kowtun and his partners, Jack O'Neill, Russell Tucker and Sheldon Lenahan have bought ambulance services that were distressed or in bankruptcy. The Meadville service's general manager is also becoming a part owner of the Meadville service.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com

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