Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Emergency medical services council gives Pinellas County funding plan tepid support

Under pressure from Pinellas officials, a board that advises the County Commission about emergency medical services agreed to support a proposal that would significantly change the way the EMS system is funded.

The 8-4 vote last week from members of the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council was less than enthusiastic. The motion approved was to recommend the County Commission support the plan and the funding change but to be open to other reports and information that comes along. Its support is contingent on the results of an upcoming study into feasibility of the plan and on tweaking the proposal. It's unclear what tweaks the council envisioned.

The council was established by state law. It has 21 members including mayors, fire and EMS chiefs, doctors and consumers. Only 12 members were at Wednesday's meeting.

Under the proposal, the county would pay for part of the costs of 72 fire trucks that would be used for both fire and medical calls, the medical equipment and one position on each truck. A position is three people — one for each shift — and the replacements necessary during vacations or sick time. The county would pay the average salary and benefits of firefighter/paramedics across the county.

Pinellas currently uses the countywide EMS property tax to fund 62 vehicles (fire trucks and rescues — the ones that look like ambulances), medical equipment and 85 positions. The county pays each of the 18 fire districts that department's actual costs of salaries and benefits for those positions, a number that ranges from $80,000 to $134,000 per person.

The cost of the new plan, County Administrator Bob LaSala says, would be about $27.1 million annually, a savings of about $11 million over the current system.

LaSala on Wednesday urged the EMS council to endorse his plan and recommend that the County Commission adopt it later this year. If the commission adopts it, the financial changes would go into effect Oct. 1, 2012.

"Yes, this proposal is the best," LaSala said. "This is the right thing to do and the right approach to take provided we do not sit on our hands for the next 25 years."

LaSala conceded that his proposal is "a work in progress." The county is planning to hire a consultant to doublecheck the feasibility of the plan and to help implement it.

"This is a human endeavor," LaSala said. "It's not perfect. It's not going to be perfect."

Some EMS council members urged that the group withhold any conclusions until the next study has been done.

"I don't have the confidence that's the right plan for our county," South Pasadena Mayor Kathleen Peters said.

But Assistant County Administrator Maureen Freaney, who is not an EMS council member, repeatedly pushed the group to vote in favor of the plan.

"We need to keep moving," Freaney said. "Having the drive from this group is critical. It wouldn't be a good thing" if the EMS council did not support the plan.

Freaney added, "I really have little doubt it will work."

St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue Chief Steven Knight suggested holding off until more information was available. The plan, he said, was contained in a preliminary report, not a final one. All the data are not available, he said.

"I don't understand the urgency with additional reports forthcoming," Knight said. "It's premature. It's going to be quilted together."

Reach Anne Lindberg at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450.

Emergency medical services council gives Pinellas County funding plan tepid support 08/20/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 19, 2011 3:01pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review: Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald team up to cool down the Clearwater Jazz Holiday


    A cool breeze swept through Coachman Park Saturday night. Couple of them, actually.

    Kenny Loggins performed at the Clearwater Jazz Holiday on Oct. 21, 2017.
  2. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  3. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Ryan Callahan spent a lot of time last season rehabilitating his injured hip alongside Steven Stamkos, who was rehabbing a knee after season-ending surgery. During those hours, Callahan noticed two things about Stamkos: his hunger and his excitement to return this season.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  4. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  5. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102