Tempers flare as Utica granted temporary stay for ambulance service


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - The City of Utica will not have to shut down its ambulance service at midnight Thursday as ordered to by the state. The Appellate Division in Albany has granted the city a temporary stay, allowing the service to continue to operate. But the stay expires at the end of July, bringing only short-lived relief to battle-worn city leaders.

"The end of July, we'll be agonizing over this again until we know if we have a permanent...stay until the court of appeals hears the case," says Mayor David Roefaro.

Roefaro says the ambulance service was established because of need. He says it responded to more than 9,000 calls in 2010. However, he and other city officials say there is no denying that losing the service, and the $1.8 million its expected to bring the city in the current budget year, would financially devastate the city.

"If we don't realize 90% of that, the implication on the tax rate next year is, I don't even want to think about that right now, because we'd have to make drastic changes in our services, some of our services, in order to compensate for that," says City Comptroller Michael Cerminaro.

While the mayor held a news conference in the council chambers announcing the temporary stay, members of the Common Council Public Safety Committee were meeting in an adjoining room. Jim Zecca got into a heated exchange with the mayor over why he wasn't at their meeting.

"Your administration is a sham!" shouted Zecca.

"You are dragging this city down and everyone knows it!" shouted the mayor back to Zecca.

Former Oneida County Legislator Larry Tanoury, Jr. joined the heated exchange, telling the mayor that he was 'cracking.'

City leaders are hoping the Appellate Division will extend their stay at the end of July. They're hoping it will be extended until their appeal is heard by the courts, but that could take six months to a year. Officials with Kunkel Ambulance say they're prepared to handle any extra volume from the possible shut down of Utica's ambulance service.

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