O’burg plan to help rescue squad questioned

Updated: Nov. 6, 2020 at 4:38 PM EST
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OGDENSBURG, N.Y. (WWNY) - A city of Ogdensburg plan to help its rescue squad is drawing questions.

The city administration has proposed buying new defibrillators - which are used to restart hearts - for the squad, at a cost of $175,000. The ones the squad now has will soon be obsolete.

“It’s an everyday used piece of equipment and it is a lifesaving piece of equipment," said Ken Gardner, chief of the Ogdensburg Volunteer Rescue Squad.

It has been years since the city, which has the $175,000 in its proposed budget, has funded anything like the defibrillators.

“I think it’s important that the city of Ogdensburg government recognizes the contributions they make and supports them when they need things," said Stephen Jellie, Ogdensburg’s city manager.

But some see another motive. On social media, posts reviewed by 7 News allege the city is trying to eliminate the city fire department’s first response to medical emergencies.

Jellie says it’s no such thing.

“This is a critical piece of equipment. It has nothing to do with staffing levels in the fire department," he said.

The context, of course, is a proposal from city administration to eliminate 10 firefighter positions. City officials say they have to do it to get taxes under control.

The firefighters union says it’s fine with the rescue squad getting new equipment. But they also see a mixed motive.

“I don’t believe anything that the current administration is doing is anything but trying to make us less effective and efficient as a department," said Jason Bouchard, from Ogdensburg Professional Firefighters Local 1799 union.

Both the defibrillator purchase and the firefighter layoffs are still just proposals. There will be more than a month of discussion, a public hearing, and a final council vote needed before any of it can happen.

In the meantime, the city administration says the proposed firefighter layoffs are there in part to kick-start negotiations with the fire department.

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