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Paramedic question tabled

TAMPA — A debate over who should get to work off-duty paramedic gigs at Raymond James Stadium drew a capacity crowd of rescue workers Monday that would have made a fire marshal cringe.

But after much discussion, the governmental agency that oversees the stadium voted unanimously to delay a decision. Board members of the Tampa Sports Authority will instead await a legal analysis from their attorney.

Hillsborough Commissioner Jim Norman, who sits on the Sports Authority, wants to open the part-time work to county paramedics. Under a long-term arrangement, only city of Tampa paramedics work events at Raymond James, including Tampa Bay Buccaneers games.

But Norman says Hillsborough paramedics should be eligible for part of the moonlighting work, because the county runs the stadium, overseen by the Sports Authority. The county also pays two-thirds of the authority's annual financial deficit.

County fire union chief George Sucarichi told Sports Authority board members that such a deal might open a door to further cooperation between the city and county, which are often seen as at odds.

"We're hoping this might be a pathway," Sucarichi said. "Let's come together and hopefully send a message to the larger community that it's possible and we started it here."

But city officials, including union representatives, questioned whether the Sports Authority can legally make the change. They said city Fire Rescue workers have sole jurisdiction to work at the stadium, including off-duty shifts, because it's located with Tampa city limits.

"It's more of a complicated issue than just being fair," said Nick LoCicero, rescue division chief for Tampa Fire Rescue.

County officials, however, contend that no laws would prevent the Sports Authority from opening the part-time work to Hillsborough employees.

So, presented with the conflict, the Sports Authority is seeking more input.

"We could make a decision that is the wrong decision," said Sports Authority board member Frank DeBose, a city of Tampa appointee.

Currently about 32 city paramedics and three supervisors work a typical Buccaneers game, receiving hourly pay of $25 to $35. They work from four to seven hours, with the number and duration changing for other events.

County paramedics, many of whom are also firefighters as are city paramedics, have long wanted to have an opportunity to work the shifts.

Their respective unions typically play heavy roles in local elections, so the dispute is expected to divide city and county representatives on the Sports Authority.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3387.

Paramedic question tabled 02/25/08 [Last modified: Monday, February 25, 2008 10:08pm]
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