LARGO — Commissioners here voted Tuesday to take the first step toward filing a lawsuit against Pinellas County to stop a proposal to slash funding to the county's emergency medical services system.
Under the motion made by Largo commissioner Harriet Crozier, city staff are to bring back a resolution at the commission's April 15 meeting to start the conflict resolution process with the county. State law requires governments to undergo mediation before filing a lawsuit. The vote was unanimous among the six commission members present. Largo Mayor Pat Gerard was not at the meeting.
The county has proposed cutting about $2.3 million over the next three years from the approximately $40 million collected from a countywide property tax that goes to pay for part of the $116 million EMS system.
The cuts would come from the five busiest departments in the county — Largo, St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Pinellas Park and Lealman. In addition, the county would freeze payments to all 18 fire departments that provide first responder EMS service for those three years. For the seven years after that, the county would cap the amount by which EMS budgets could increase.
Representatives from Largo, Lealman, Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg say the proposed cuts will take firefighter-paramedics off the streets and result in longer response times and reduced services for both EMS and fire calls.
Largo may not be alone in taking legal action against the county. Elected representatives from St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park and the unincorporated Lealman area have said they, too, are willing to go to court if the county refuses to negotiate.