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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas blasts St. Pete's bill on EMS system



CLEARWATER -- Pinellas County commissioners and County Administrator Bob LaSala on Tuesday afternoon ripped a draft bill supported by St. Petersburg that would allow the city to run its own EMS system, if the Legislature agrees.

The board voted 7-0 to oppose the city's action. " "This is crazy," Commissioner Susan Latvala said.

The city asked Sen. Charlie Justice, D-St.Petersburg, to file the proposed bill, authored by assistant city attorney Jeanne Hoffman, County officials found out about the idea -- coming weeks after months of fighting over EMS funding was resolved -- in an email from Justice's office asking for the county's thoughts.

"Happy Friday!" the message began.

 "The bill is at best sketchy and would open up the entire system to confusion, at best," said LaSala, who pointedly noted no one at the city gave the county a heads-up on the proposal.

Commissioner Ken Welch suggested fingers should point to Mayor Rick Baker, because he said he was told not everyone on the City Council knew about the draft bill.

"This is disappointing. I can tell you I don't believe the full council was aware of this," Welch said.

"Is it too late for you to run for mayor?" Latvala quipped,

The bill doesn't mention funding, but LaSala did: Under the current system, St. Petersburg receives $3.3 million more in property taxes for EMS than its residents pay. He suggested the city might want to keep the existing funding levels, despite the change.

"Thought I had seen every angle used to not conform to a budget," Commission Chairman Calvin Harris wrote in an email to LaSala on Sunday afternoon.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 12:14pm]


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