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Northport to add paid paramedics to volunteer fire department

Left to right: Fire Commissioner Paul Latuso, Fire

Left to right: Fire Commissioner Paul Latuso, Fire Commissioner Chairman Phil Weber, Fire Chief Brad Wine of the Northport Fire Dept.. Credit: Valerie Bauman/ Newsday

Northport trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to spend up to $100,000 to add a paramedic position to the village volunteer Fire Department.

Department officials said the decision would make the community safer by ensuring someone with the highest level of emergency response medical training is always on duty during the busiest call hours.

“It’s really going to be a tremendous help,” Fire Commission chairman Philip Weber said. “Not only for the residents, but also for the firemen.”

The department has 28 volunteer EMTs, including two paramedics. But the two volunteers are not enough to support the demand of the village’s aging population, Weber said. The average age of Huntington Town residents is about 40 years, but in Northport the average age is 45 years, he said.

While the resolution trustees approved provides for one “position,” several part-time paramedics will be hired to fill it and cover the critical shifts between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m., each working no more than 17.5 hours a week at a rate of $25 per hour. Officials will rotate the paramedics depending on staffing needs.

“We’re still going to lean heavy on volunteers,” Fire Chief Brad Wine said. “But this is extra for the community ... They [volunteers] burn out. You worry about burnout, it’s a big concern in a volunteer force.”

The majority of the department’s medical emergency calls — 62 percent — fell between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. from January to October 2015, according to a previous department presentation to the board. But the volunteer paramedics work less than 5 percent of daytime calls, officials said.

Northport is using funding from the general fund for the new paramedic program. The general fund will still have roughly $2 million after the reallocation, Deputy Mayor Henry Tobin said after the meeting.

Huntington town and Asharoken residents will also benefit from the change, officials said, adding that they are hoping for assistance in funding from both municipalities.

“This is a very worthwhile service. It’s literally a vital service,” Tobin said. “My continued support ... will be contingent on if our partners in the Village of Asharoken and the Town of Huntington pay their fair share.”

The department already has nine candidates it’s screening for the new spots, officials said.

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