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Vote May Get Ambulance District Rolling

Residents who live in Brewerton, N.Y., will decide whether they want an ambulance service based close to home.

A referendum to establish the Brewerton Ambulance District and subsequently raise money through taxes to fund it is scheduled for Tuesday. Only those who live within the Brewerton Fire Protection District and on Haven Circle are eligible to vote.

If the proposal is approved, property owners who live in those areas will see their taxes increase about .005 cents per $1,000 in assessed value. That may be confusing since Cicero is on fractional assessment. What it means is about $40.50 annually for the owner of a $150,000 home.

"The goal is to have an ambulance service based in Brewerton that can respond to emergencies more quickly than a neighboring ambulance service," town Supervisor Chet Dudzinski said.

The hamlet of Brewerton and surrounding areas are within the town of Cicero. The North Area Volunteer Ambulance Corps responds to emergencies in Brewerton but is based in North Syracuse, about 9 1/2 miles, or 12 to 15 minutes away.

"It's very critical we cut that response time," Councilor Bill Rybak said.

For everyone's safety, we'd like the response time to be five minutes or less," said Brad Pinsky, a lawyer for the firefighters and ambulance volunteers in Brewerton.

Rural/Metro Ambulance Service used to cover the Brewerton territory, but stopped more than a year ago because the company was losing money, Pinsky said.

Brewerton firefighters tried to find another ambulance service to replace Rural/Metro. None could guarantee they could run the service out of the firehouse to provide five-minute or less response times to emergencies.

So, Brewerton volunteers took over the service in March 2006. They've responded to 750 calls and made more than 400 transports since then, Pinsky said. They've handled about 500 emergencies within their district and made 169 calls to support other ambulances, such as NAVAC.

But volunteers say they face the same financial challenges as Rural/Metro. They estimate they need about $100,000 a year to fund the operation. Without it, the ambulance service likely will stop.

Town law does not require a public vote for Cicero to establish the ambulance district. "We would like to see the public have direct voting on this," Pinsky said.

The vote will be 2 to 8 p.m. at the Brewerton Fire Hall, 9625 Brewerton Road.

Town Councilor Jim Corl Jr. said the town surveyed Brewerton residents and found overwhelming support for the ambulance district.

Marshall Shupe lives at 6458 Long Point Road, which is in the Brewerton Fire Protection District, but about 20 minutes from the hamlet.

"I'd hate to see an ambulance have to come out of the city or any surrounding areas if I had an emergency," he said.

The Brewerton Fire Protection District encompasses a land area of approximately 23 square miles. It's complemented by an almost equally large area of water on Oneida Lake.

"It's important for everybody, especially the elderly, to have this service available," Corl said.

Tom Leo can be reached at tleo@syracuse.comor 470-6013.

Referendum

What: A public vote will be taken on the proposed establishment of the Brewerton Ambulance District. About $100,000 a year would be raised through taxes to fund the ambulance service.

When: Tuesday.

Time: 2 to 8 p.m.

Where: Brewerton Fire Hall, 9625 Brewerton Road.

Who can vote: Only residents who live in the Brewerton Fire Protection District and on Haven Circle are eligible to vote.

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