By JOE MAHONEY
The Daily Star
---- — COOPERSTOWN — In the latest example of how tight government finances are impacting public programs, Otsego County is doing away with free cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) training for organizations that do not pay into the county insurance plan.
“We’re just attempting to do what is best for the taxpayers,” said Robert O’Brien, deputy director of Otsego County’s office of emergency services. “Times are getting tough, and we’re trying to be fiscally responsible.”
Starting Jan. 1, the county will charge $40 for first-time CPR classes. Those taking refresher courses will be charged $20.
The new fees are expected to cost the anti-poverty group Opportunities for Otsego approximately $3,000 a year, and will pose a hardship for the organization, said its director of Head Start programs, Tanya Shalor.
“It is going to be crippling for a lot of organizations — especially the nonprofits,” she said. She said her organization has 70 daycare staffers who are required such training.
Otsego County government is currently facing a budget deficit of some $5 million, and county department heads are being pressed to cut costs.
O’Brien said that a proposal to begin charging fees was reviewed by County Attorney Ellen Coccoma, who determined that the county should not have been giving away such services in the first place.
An email sent out by O’Brien three weeks ago announced the new fees and stated: “Through a review of the current program, the county attorney has informed this office and the Public Safety Committee that Otsego County is not allowed to provide these services for free to outside agencies that do not pay into the County insurance plan.”
The memo added: “the only organizations eligible to receive free CPR training will be Otsego County fire and EMS organizations and county, town and village employees within Otsego County.”
Shalor said she is hopeful that county representatives revisit the new fee schedule with an eye toward reducing the impact on nonprofit groups. She also noted that Opportunities for Otsego has its own CPR trainer on staff and only needs the certification from the county.
She acknowledged the new fees are still below the $65 rate that the American Heart Association charges for CPR training.