volunteers

"A lot of things are in the air,” said Westerlo’s acting supervisor of ambulance coverage.

Fifteen members serve on the Westerlo Rescue Squad, a mere 0.4 percent of the town’s population of about 3,400. The average age of the members is 60. Both factors have led to the decision for the volunteer ambulance to close at the end of the year.

ALBANY COUNTY — Although millions of dollars are spent every year by taxpayers through their fire districts in the western half of Albany County, just hundreds of the tens-of-thousands of the eligible voters turned out for the commissioner elections on Tuesday.

As Western Turnpike Rescue Squad closes its doors, its operations taken over by the town of Guilderland, the Altamont Rescue Squad looks to the future.

The fire company is hoping that $11,000 set aside for building costs can be used to to cover costs for a newly required insurance program.

With each passing year, fewer and fewer all-volunteer ambulance squads remain in the area, replaced with full-time paid employees.

A statewide insurance program for certain firefighters afflicted with cancer has been touted for helping at-risk volunteers, but there is concern in small fire departments that the costs outweigh the benefits.

As for independent services within the town of Guilderland, Western Turnpike has become a fully paid service and Altamont Rescue has “a few volunteers,” the town's medical director said.

A special Rensselaerville Town Board meeting to discuss the closure of the town’s volunteer ambulance was met with a solemn acknowledgement of the end of the 45-year-old organization.

Betty Filkins, of Westerlo, was recently recognized as a New York State Woman of Distinction.

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