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Hillsborough fire union gets some concessions on plum job

TAMPA — The head of the Hillsborough County firefighters union stood outside Raymond James Stadium Wednesday morning with hopes of getting arrested.

George Sucarichi had just been escorted by a security guard from the offices of the Tampa Sports Authority while city and county officials hammered out details of off-duty paramedic services during football games.

Among the topics of conversation: Whether Hillsborough County paramedics can help with medical coverage during the Super Bowl to be played in Tampa in February.

"I had an absolute right to participate in this meeting," Sucarichi said.

Getting arrested, he said, would underscore his point.

But Barbara Casey, a spokeswoman for the Tampa Sports Authority, said there was never any intention of calling the police. The authority's executive director, Henry Saavedra, simply wanted to meet with the heads of the city and county fire and emergency services, and Sucarichi wouldn't leave when asked.

"The unions weren't invited to participate," Casey said.

The incident is just the latest in a months-long battle between city and county leaders over who gets to earn extra pay by treating injured NFL players and overly intoxicated football fans during Tampa Bay Buccaneers games.

City emergency workers have done the off-duty work for years, and county workers want a piece of the action. Paramedics make $25 to $35 an hour for four to seven hours on game days.

County paramedics got permission in April from the Sports Authority to work some of the shifts, which rankled city leaders.

The City Council in May rammed through an ordinance declaring the work the city's "exclusive right" because the stadium is within city limits.

But city officials apparently are backing off that stance.

In a letter sent last month to the Sports Authority, which operates Raymond James Stadium, City Attorney David Smith said Hillsborough's firefighters could have some of the assignments if the county would "acknowledge the exclusive right" of the city to provide all emergency medical services within Tampa's boundaries.

Without that acknowledgement, talks of how to divide the duties were merely a "professional courtesy," Smith said.

Still, county fire rescue Chief Bill Nesmith said Wednesday's meeting was productive.

"We were at odds on three different issues," he said. "One of those was Super Bowl participation."

That was resolved to Nesmith's liking.

"There will be opportunities for them to assist us," said Tampa Fire Rescue division Chief Nick LoCicero.

Also resolved were questions about pay rates. Still at issue is who will handle transportation of patients from the stadium.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Hillsborough fire union gets some concessions on plum job 07/03/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 10, 2008 7:11pm]
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