Clerical error creates major headache for Lewiston Fire Co

LEWISTON, N.Y. (WIVB)- When that emergency siren sounds, the last thing Rodney Michalak is thinking about is a toll fee; but that’s exactly what the president of the Lewiston Volunteer Fire Company has been saddled with.

“Violation notices, threatening letters to take our registration away from the ambulance. And now, it’s gone to collections,” Michalak said as he showed us a folder full of violations.

It all started in June, when Michalak began getting notices the company owed the Thruway Authority money for emergency calls that took them through the Grand Island toll to hospitals in Buffalo.

“The one paperwork said $52. The last paperwork we got from them was for $29.25,” Michalak said.

Emergency vehicles do pay tolls if they’re not responding to a Thruway emergency, but those fees are reimbursed and first responders are never stopped at the tollbooth.

For years, Michalak said he’d alert 911 dispatch they were en route, and always take the EZ Pass lane. Having to pay up at all, he said, was new to him.

This summer, he contacted Thruway officials.

“They promised me that this would be all set and taken care of. Great, no problem. I washed my hands of it.”

But the violations just kept coming.

Michalak’s main concern was having the company’s one ambulance registration revoked, which according to a letter sent to him by the Thruway Authority, could happen.

He purchased an EZ Pass for the company, but he said that’s only a temporary solution.

Late Friday afternoon, News 4 heard from the Thruway Authority. It turns out, Michalak’s headache was due to a clerical error.

“This was a clerical error and we worked closely with the Lewiston Fire Department to make sure this issue was rectified. The violation was dismissed,” said a Thruway spokesperson.

Michalak will keep his EZ Pass, but any charges the company accrues for emergency calls will be immediately reimbursed.