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Town reluctant on bike paramedics for fireworks show

Having bicycling paramedics on hand for Aurora's popular Independence Day fireworks next month seemed like a sure sell at Village Hall this week, but that wasn't the case at Aurora Town Hall.

East Aurora Village Trustee Keith Bender convinced the village that it was worth the $500 expense to have additional medical backup for the July 3 fireworks display that draws upwards of 10,000 spectators, many of them from outside Aurora.

"With a crowd that size, it would be prudent," he said, noting that the town also was expected to vote on the measure during its work session this week.

Trustees Libby Weberg and Ernest Scheer agreed, noting that it could only make the event safer and would improve the availability of medically trained personnel to help out.

Bender said he anticipated that the town would be willing to split the tab with the village, particularly since town officials this spring had expressed concerns about how to make the event more safe.

Some town officials had unsuccessfully lobbied the village to move the fireworks festivities to July 4 in the hope that some people would opt to stay home for their own community celebrations instead of piling into Hamlin Park.

The Village Board on Monday voted to split the cost of the bicycle paramedic service it would contract through Rural/Metro for $168 per hour or a total cost of about $500 for a two-bike team consisting of one emergency medical technician and one paramedic.

The village's agreement was with the understanding that the town would kick in the remaining $250 toward it, to have paramedics available beyond the Rural/Metro ambulance to be stationed on site and another one at the fire hall. Bender, who works for Rural/Metro, abstained from the vote.

But to the village's surprise, the Town Board did not grab at funding bicycle paramedics, at all. In fact, when a reporter informed three town councilmen about the village's vote earlier Monday night, they said the town did not feel that it was necessary and questioned the expense.

"As soon as I brought it up, they turned it down," said Peggy Cooke, Aurora's parks and recreation director. "They didn't think it was necessary. I mentioned the $500."

Paramedic bike teams would have been new for the event, but village police also have used their bike patrol at the fireworks in previous years. The paramedic bikes are equipped with first response advanced life support equipment, oxygen, a defibrillator and advanced airway equipment.

Bender was upset to learn Tuesday that the town didn't back the plan. "Dwight Krieger harped on safety issues," Bender said. "Yet he didn't think it was necessary [for bike paramedics]."

Bender vowed to personally pay the additional $250 needed.

"One way or another, we're going to have it," he said Tuesday. "The village agreed to pay for half of it. If the town doesn't come up with it, I'll pay for it out of my own pocket."


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