Friday, June 22, 2018
News Roundup

Pinellas County EMS proposal roundly ignored in budget requests

A county proposal to slash spending and freeze payments to fire departments for emergency medical services has largely fallen flat: Most of the 18 departments ignored that approach and many instead asked for more money than the county says they are due when submitting budget requests for the coming year.

One department wants almost three times more than it's currently receiving.

The request to up the funding for the Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District from its current $660,815 to about $1.9 million isn't as outrageous as it might sound, fire Chief Bert Polk said. Instead, he said, it's a result of two years of futile attempts to get the county to discuss district concerns. Those include a series of funding cuts to Suncoast that began in 2008 when Pinellas officials slashed $427,152 from the Suncoast budget for EMS provided out of Fire Station 28 in the Oakhurst area. Station 28 has since been closed.

The next year, the county whacked the district's EMS budget by $1.3 million and cut an additional $484,750 from Suncoast's EMS budget in 2010. Pinellas officials said then they were eliminating overlapping services. As part of the cuts, coverage of the Redingtons was transferred from Suncoast to Seminole, a move that Polk says has hurt service by lengthening response times.

Suncoast, the chief said, has spent at least the past two years trying to talk with the county about the situation but "we've never received any feedback. ... We've never gotten anything from the county. ... I categorize it as being ignored."

So, Polk said, he decided his budget request should reflect not only those concerns but the misgivings over the county's proposal to freeze the budgets of all 18 departments that provide first response EMS service. Suncoast's budget request, he said, does not reflect the freeze but what the department actually needs to function in the coming year.

Bruce Moeller, the county's director of safety and emergency services, said he's aware of Suncoast's concerns. He disagreed with Polk's conclusion that the county is ignoring Suncoast. The county, he said, has held many discussions over the issues. The county, Moeller said, simply doesn't agree with Suncoast.

Moeller said he was surprised to see that Polk had translated his department's concerns into a budget request. But, he said he was not surprised that most departments (Seminole's budget complies with the county proposal) had asked for more than they are slated to get under a county proposal to cut the funding of six departments — St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park, Lealman and Seminole — and freeze funding for three years for all 18 departments that provide first response EMS service. For the subsequent seven years, the county would cap the amount of increase in the budgets.

The departments, he said, recognize that the county proposal has not been formally adopted by the County Commission. And, he said, it's normal for departments to make requests that are subject to negotiation before the commission gets the final EMS budget in late summer, early fall.

What's different this year, Moeller said, is that the county wants a long-term solution to EMS funding issues. So, while the budgets are set for one year, the county proposal would cover the next decade.

There's another twist to EMS budget negotiations this year. Largo, Pinellas Park, Lealman, Safety Harbor, Suncoast and other departments have instituted the conflict resolution process over the county proposal. Other departments are considering joining the fray. State law requires governing bodies to undergo that process before they sue each other. The first meeting is scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Largo Public Library, 120 Central Park Drive. The meeting is open to the public.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8450. Follow @alindbergtimes on Twitter.

Comments
Support growing for Tom Jurich to become Bulls’ next AD

Support growing for Tom Jurich to become Bulls’ next AD

This dispatch comes at you from a remote south Georgia lake shore, where the waters remain far more pristine than the waves being made in USF athletics circles.Which is to say, a number of prominent folks are clamoring for Tom Jurich to become the Bu...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Updated: 21 minutes ago
Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

Pride divided no more: St. Pete Pride comes back together

ST. PETERSBURG — The 16th annual St. Pete Pride Parade is getting ready to march along the downtown waterfront the second straight year. But many hope to move past the division caused last year when the parade was uprooted from its original hom...
Updated: 26 minutes ago
Welcome back to the dark side, Bucs fans

Welcome back to the dark side, Bucs fans

TAMPA — Thursday was not the end of Jameis Winston in Tampa Bay, but it is in sight.Me? I was sitting at home. I was tired of the NBA draft, even with Tampa's Kevin Knox going to the New York Knicks.So I switched to the NFL Network. An episode ...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Winston aftermath: Report says Darby wasn’t in car for whole ride

Winston aftermath: Report says Darby wasn’t in car for whole ride

There's no telling how much detail will be disclosed in what the NFL learned in its investigation that led to Jameis Winston being suspended for the first three games of the upcoming season, but some have already been reported in the first 24 hours s...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
St. Pete man carves out a career and a way of life

St. Pete man carves out a career and a way of life

Wes Wing was down in the Keys, repairing roofs on family homes, after Hurricane George hit in September 1998. He wanted to beat the storm, as it traveled up the coast, and get back to St. Petersburg in time for a hurricane party he was hosting, so h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Justices adopt new privacy rules for cellphone tracking

Justices adopt new privacy rules for cellphone tracking

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court says police generally need a search warrant if they want to track criminal suspects’ movements by collecting information about where they’ve used their cellphones. The justices’ 5-4 decision Friday is a victory for priv...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

Brink: Why have Florida’s working-age men left the labor market in droves

A cancer lurks within Florida’s otherwise rosy job numbers, one that’s has been called a quiet catastrophe and an intractable time bomb.Too many men between the ages of 25 and 54 have stopped working.Economists call those the prime-age years. Incomes...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Kwon Alexander to Jameis Winston: ‘We gotcha back’

Kwon Alexander to Jameis Winston: ‘We gotcha back’

There are many questions in the aftermath of Thursday's news that Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended for the first three games of the 2018 season, but even before the suspension is officially announced, he is drawing support on social ...
Updated: 1 hour ago