Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas County plan to cut paramedics worries Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Faced with the prospect of losing a fire rescue unit on Clearwater Beach, the City Council voted Monday to oppose Pinellas County's proposed budget cuts to paramedic services.

Clearwater is joining St. Petersburg, which is also opposing the cuts. The issue will be debated at a County Commission public hearing on Friday.

The cities are upset about a plan to streamline the countywide EMS system. Among other things, the proposal would reduce the number of fire rescue units that Pinellas County funds from 65 to 60.

In Clearwater, two out of six rescue units are on the chopping block because they answer fewer emergency calls than the others, said Fire Chief Jamie Geer.

They're in Station 46 at Clearwater Beach and Station 50 in Countryside. But officials are more worried about the beach because it takes longer for Sunstar ambulances or paramedics from nearby fire stations to get there when traffic is heavy.

"If I'm in a condo in March and I have a heart attack, I think I'm just going to call a funeral home," said City Council member Paul Gibson, who lives on Clearwater Beach. "Every time I think I've heard the granddaddy of bad ideas, I hear another one."

The beach and Countryside stations each have a rescue unit with two paramedics, and a fire engine equipped for basic life support with emergency medical technicians, who have less medical training.

Under the county's proposal, each station would lose its rescue unit and a paramedic would begin riding on its fire engine, turning it into an advanced life support or ALS unit, Geer said.

So a paramedic would still be available, but each station would have only one vehicle instead of two. If the engine is on a call when another medical emergency arises, a neighboring station would have to send help.

Clearwater would lose at least seven paramedics under the plan, Geer said.

Clearwater and St. Petersburg complain that the county is pushing these changes through too quickly. "The train is moving too fast," said council member John Doran.

Meanwhile, Pinellas County says it's trying to make up an $18 million budget shortfall in the EMS system in 2009-10. Officials say the cuts are necessary because of shrinking tax collections and homeowners' unwillingness to pay higher property taxes.

The cities want Pinellas to consider raising the county EMS property tax rate, which is about 58 cents for every $1,000 of taxable property value. Raising it to 80 cents would collect another $12.5 million and would mean a $33 tax increase on a $200,000 home, Geer said.

"If this is the right level of service, we should have done it years ago," said Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard. "The reason we're doing it now is there's not the political will to change the millage rate."

Clearwater council members are sending Vice Mayor George Cretekos to argue the city's case at the county's public hearing Friday.

"I can't say that I'm surprised," assistant county administrator James Dates said by phone. "Anytime you're looking at reducing funds in any area, you're going to see some opposition — particularly when cities are struggling with their own funding."

Mike Brassfield can be reached at brassfield@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4160.

Fast facts

Public hearing

Join discussion of emergency medical services cuts at 9:30 a.m. Friday, fifth floor assembly room, Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater. (727) 464-3485.

Fewer paramedics?

Under a new county plan, Clearwater says it will lose seven paramedics and the following two rescue units:

• Station 46, Clearwater Beach

• Station 50, Countryside

.

Pinellas County plan to cut paramedics worries Clearwater 03/16/09 [Last modified: Monday, March 16, 2009 8:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Competition and uncertainty keep New Port Richey's Steve Miklos hooked on power boat racing

    Outdoors

    HOLIDAY — If Steve Miklos could have it his way, every power boat race would take place in rough water. He finds the turbulent conditions calming, an attitude he's developed during a professional power boat racing career that spans hundreds of races dating back to 1991.

    Steve Miklos, the throttle man and owner of the No. 51 Sun Print Racing boat, poses at his shop in Holiday. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  2. Did a Cubs player give Trump the middle finger during a White House visit?

    Ml

    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on …

    President Donald Trump welcomed former Rays manager Joe Maddon and the World Series champion Chicago Cubs into the Oval Office. But it was a photo that surfaced later that got much of the attention on social media.
The photo, taken by Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times, purportedly shows outfielder Albert Almora Jr. flipping a bird while standing just feet from Trump as the other players were gathered around his desk. [Gordon Wittenmyer via Twitter]
  3. Florida's death row population lower today than it was in 2005

    Blogs

    The last person executed in Florida was Oscar Ray Bolin on Jan. 7, 2016, making him the 92nd person to be executed since Florida resumed capital punishment in 1979. The last condemned inmate to join death row , convicted double-murderer Craig Wall of Pinellas County, arrived on June 6, 2016.

    The execution chamber at Florida State Prison
  4. Adele may never tour again: read her emotional note

    Blogs

    Adele is wrapping up a monster world tour, and it sounds like it took a lot out of her. 

    Adele left this note in her tour program, and fans posted it on Instagram.
  5. Trump goes off on 'Psycho Joe' and 'Crazy Mika'

    Blogs

    WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump this morning lashed out at the Morning Joe crew and worked in a Florida reference, a remarkable personal attack from a man who has been criticized for his treatment of women.