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>Council action assures ambulance service

BATAVIA -- When the City Council ended a two-year stalemate by approving a new contract with firefighters last week, it also assured some worried residents that the city will continue to operate an ambulance service.

The service has a $2.5 million budget for this year with 24 paramedics and four ambulances.

Last year, it had an operating deficit of $337,000. In January, the Council had hired an outside billing firm to collect nearly $1 million in overdue charges, primarily from users living outside the city.

The Council even arranged for a feasibility study by Rural Metro. But attorneys for Local 896, International Association of Fire Fighters, threatened a lawsuit over job losses.

The new budget, which allocates $2.7 million for the Fire Department, would eliminate eight positions through attrition, reduce benefits for new hires, decrease staffing to six from eight per shift and cut overtime, which has totaled as much as $200,000 a year.

The ambulance service has contracts to provide coverage for more than a dozen villages and towns. The new budget increases its staffing to 24 from 16, while the Fire Department's roster will drop to 32 from 40.

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