The Lockport City Democratic Committee says it will part ways with 5th Ward Alderman Rick Abbott, also a Democrat, for opposing restoring to union firefighters the job of providing city ambulance service.
Prior to 2014, the Lockport Fire Department (LPD) provided ambulance service to city residents for 40 years. The city outsources to a private company which has saved taxpayers $1 million per year.
Lockport City Democratic Committee Chairman Roger Sherrie said, “Rick Abbott duped voters in the 5th ward into thinking he was a principled Democrat when he is not. Abbott should be ashamed for deceiving the public into thinking he is more than just a rubber stamp for [Republican Lockport Mayor] Anne McCaffrey.”
Abbott voted with Republicans this week with a “no” vote to a Lockport Common Council resolution which could potentially streamline the return of the ambulance service to the union-run Lockport Fire Department (LFD.)
Democrat Aldermen Mark S. Devine, Anita Mullane and Joseph O’Shaughnessy voted in favor of Devine’s resolution to expedite the return of LFD’s ambulance service, should the city lose an appeal of a ruling by the Public Employee Relations Board who said that the city acted improperly when it dropped ambulance service in September 2014.
Along with Abbott, Aldermen David Wohleben and Joseph Oates and Mayor Anne E. McCaffrey voted to oppose the resolution.
Cost cutting during a financial crisis was cited as the reason then that the city handed the task to Twin City Ambulance Service.
McCaffrey cited projections provided by Director of Finance Scott Schrader and Fire Chief Pat Brady that she says demonstrate the city would have to raise taxes by 9 percent over the next two years if the city returns to the LFD – about $150 tax hike per property in the city.
Sherrie says that “Third Ward Alderman Mark Devine’s resolution didn’t obligate the city to do anything. Abbott voting against it only makes sense to show his partisan support for the mayor.”
Twin City does not charge Lockport for its services but like every other ambulance company it makes its money billing users.
The City of Lockport’s Fire Department did that too but lost money, costing the taxpayers about $1 million more than it took in.
Supporters of the LFD-ambulance service say firefighters were faster, more professional and better staffed to handle emergency medical call than Twin City. Second Ward Alderman Anita Mullane said Republicans were “playing politics with people’s lives.”
Twin City President Terry Clark said responses to emergency calls in the city averaged five minutes and 23 seconds since September 2014. LFD Chief Pat Brady did not release LFD’s average response times to emergency medical calls.
McCaffrey discussed the projections that the city would spend $1.7 million to return the fire service and see revenue of about $600,000.
Abbott said the tax savings, plus the good service provided by Twin City to date are the reason he voted as he did and not because he is rubber stamping or being partisan.
But Sherrie promised to field an opponent.
“Democrats will have a strong candidate for 5th Ward Alderman in 2017; someone who believes in proper oversight of the Mayor and re-establishing the Council as the voice of the average voter; not someone involved just to feather their own nest,” said Sherrie.