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Christopher D. Eldridge
Chris the Broadcaster
· Long before Chris was able to drive a car, he was driving music at WLSV AM 790. During his pre-teen and early teen years, Chris would spend his Saturday mornings with Bill Jones, who hosted the morning show. In the late 70’s and early 80’s Chris answered phones, helped collect news and from time to time, spun a record.
· On February 3, 1986, WJQZ signed on the air in Wellsville as Allegany County’s first commercial FM radio station. Later that year, Chris joined WJQZ as a late night and weekend DJ and newscaster. His job duties grew from part time to full time. In December 1988, Chris was part of the news crew that broke a major story in Allegany County history. On what should have been a quiet and routine Saturday morning, Chris discovered that the New York State Low Level Radioactive Waste Siting Commission had selected three locations in Allegany County as targets for a waste dump. Chris and others broke that story 48 hours before it was supposed to be made public. Chris and crew immediately became the information portal for regional and national news outlets. In January 1993, he took over the helm as the morning drive host on WJQZ. Also that January, he became the host of the WLSV talk show “Contact 790” where he interviewed members of Congress, members of the New York Legislature, local politicians as well as area newsmakers.
· In 1991, at age 22, Chris was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease. In a tell-all radio interview, Chris detailed his treatments and prognosis to the listening audience and helped educate people dealing with similar situations.
· On February 11, 1994, in a ceremony performed live on WJQZ, Chris married Renee D. Walsh. It was a first for local radio…and a first for newly elected Wellsville Mayor Sue Goetchsius who presided over the wedding.
· In November 1995, Chris again covered breaking news when the South Main Lumber complex in Wellsville erupted in fire, closing schools and prompting a state of emergency. Chris provided minute-by-minute updates to WKPQ/WHHO radio in Hornell as a special news anchor.
Chris the Emergency Manager
· In January 1996, Chris was appointed as the Emergency Manager for the Town of Wellsville. Shortly thereafter, he was also appointed to the same position for the Village of Wellsville.
· On January 19, 1996, Chris helped manage a major disaster in Wellsville. On that date, heavy rain and rapid snow melt lead to the third largest crest in recorded history for the Genesee River in Wellsville (16.13 feet). In consultation with the Town Supervisor, a State of Emergency was declared. Evacuations were coordinated. During the same time, a major fire consumed an auto dealership on Bolivar Road in Wellsville.
Chris-Special Awards and accomplishments
· While Chris was a radio guy, he was no stranger to TV as well. On April 15, 1995, Chris provided commentary to WIVB-TV after a car crash of East State Street in Wellsville. That crash eventually claimed five lives. Chris also provided content to WIVB on multiple significant plane crashes in Wellsville and Independence.
· On Tuesday May 12, 1992, Chris worked his first shift as an Emergency Services Dispatcher for the Wellsville Police Department.
· In the mid 1990’s, Chris was awarded the EMS COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST OF THE YEAR AWARD, presented by the New York State EMS Council. Chris received the award for developing a database of oxygen dependent people in the 593 calling prefix. The database was used during emergencies and power outages to ensure that people did not run low on Oxygen.
· Prior to joining the Wellsville PD, Chris was a 911 Dispatcher for the Allegany County Communications Center.
· In 2000, Chris led the way for the Wellsville 911 Center & Police Department to adopt Emergency Medical Dispatch (EMD) policies when people dialed 911 for medical emergencies. Later that year, he and two others traveled to Rock Hill, South Carolina and became internationally certified as EMD Instructors. Chris and colleagues then taught the first EMD course for all 911 dispatchers in Allegany County. Countless lives have since been saved.
· In May 2002, Chris received the Community Service Award presented by the Wellsville Area Chamber of Commerce.
· In most recent times, despite wrestling with significant health issues, Chris set his sights on public office. He ran for Allegany County Coroner in his first bid for publicly elected office.
· For the last several years, Chris has been an active correspondent for 1st Responder News online.
Chris Eldridge-Volunteer Service
· In 1981, at age 12, Chris became a junior member of the Allegany County Office of Emergency Services Rescue Squad. At the time, the squad was the only agency that provided countywide rescue service, to include the Jaws of Life rescue tool and heavy extrication equipment. The squad, located about a ½ mile from his home, was easily within bicycle distance. When not on two wheels, he could be found “riding shotgun” with his father Dale. Former Rescue Chief Jim Cicirello noted that the “equipment was spotless” when Chris was around and “he knew where everything was!” Chris later joined the Wellsville Volunteer Ambulance Corps and in 1994, the two organizations merged into a single entity.
· On December 19, 1994, the ambulance corps established the Rural Rapid Intervention Program (RRIP), a first for independent ambulance corps in New York State. Working with the Department of Motor Vehicles and the late Senator Pat McGee, the ambulance corps equipped private vehicles with life-saving equipment and red lights and sirens. Each private vehicle was then New York State certified as an official emergency vehicle. It was then that Chris became a Rescue Chief, replacing longtime chief Jim Cicirello. For the past 18 years, Chris has remained an elected Rescue Chief in Wellsville. Chris’ tireless efforts even earned him the Chet Weaver Memorial Member of the Award, a prestigious honor bestowed by fellow members for service. On one occasion, while a patient at Jones Memorial Hospital, he wheeled himself and his IV to a window and, with radio in hand, coordinated an emergency Mercy Flight landing.
· For those who remember the tv show “Baywatch,” Wellsville Ambulance/Rescue purchased the yellow rescue truck featured on the tv show. Chris and others traveled to the west coast to pick up the truck. Little did the Hollywood producers know, a movie script had been left in the truck, complete with personal cell phone numbers for the actors. Did Chris ever call the bikini-clad actresses from the show? What do you think…
Kudos go out to Preston "Roy" Lucas of Wellsville, who pushed for the "Eldridge Day." Lucas, a former county legislator, was also a long time member of the Wellsville Volunteer Ambulance Corps.. In addition, thanks go to former Wellsville Police Chief and ambulance/rescue member Jim Cicirello, who played a vital role in making the award happen.