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State lawmakers could end Utica ambulance battle for good

By JOLEEN FERRIS

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The city of Utica and its fire department are asking state lawmakers to step in and end seven years of ongoing battles over the legality of its ambulance service.

In May, the Appellate Division granted the city a legal win, but Kunkel Ambulance has filed an appeal, perpetuating the cloud of uncertainty over the city's ambulance service. If the senate and assembly pass bills currently before them, the legal battle comes to an end.

"This legislation, if approved by the Assembly and the Senate, would pull the appeal and the city of Utica, because the new law would be on the books, we would be granted a C.O.N. (Certificate of Need), it would stop the whole process. No more legal battles, no more litigation," says UFD Captain Mark Ambrose.

Ambrose says the Certificate of Need the city seeks and must have in order to operate its ambulance service is needed. Ambrose says the city's ambulance service responded to 56,234 calls since its inception in summer of 2005, and made 40,507 transports in that time.

Kunkel Ambulance has filed an appeal of the May decision from the Appelate Division that went in the city's favor.

"The city took nearly half of my business away overnight. The department of Health told them they were wrong and they sued. Now, they're looking for the state legislature to save them by passing a bill that validates their wrong doing....all the city did was displace private sector jobs in favor of a larger and more expensive government," says Kunkel Vice President Catherine Kunkel.

The assembly is expected to vote on their bill as early as Monday. Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi supports it. Senator Joe Griffo says he is still reviewing the corresponding senate bill with a consideration of joining as a co-sponsor.

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