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Pinellas EMS scene has legislators, St. Petersburg talking with county

ST. PETERSBURG — The solution to the issues facing the county's emergency medical services system should come locally, but failing that, some Pinellas legislators say they are willing to act.

"Everybody's got to give a little bit on this issue or something dramatic's going to happen," state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said Thursday. His comment came as the delegation withheld a decision on two opposing EMS bills.

One would give the county the right to determine levels of EMS service in the 18 fire districts that supply it. The other would force the county to allow firefighters to take patients to the hospital by eliminating the private ambulance service that currently transports them.

The delegation plans to meet with the County Commission to discuss the EMS issue. After that, delegation members will decide whether to ask the Legislature to pass one of the bills, draft a different bill, or leave things unchanged.

Latvala's comments came just days before the County Commission is scheduled to meet with the St. Petersburg City Council to discuss EMS issues. A proposal by County Administrator Bob LaSala to change the funding formula would lower the county's payment to St. Petersburg by about $7 million to $5 million for providing EMS service.

St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster told delegation members that his city is willing to negotiate during Monday's meeting.

"Fittingly (we meet) on Halloween to try to hammer out some type of solution," Foster said.

But the county apparently does not see Monday's meeting as a negotiation. In an e-mail to cities last week, County Commission Chairwoman Susan Latvala wrote:

"This meeting is not intended as a mediation session or negotiation of a separate agreement with the city of St. Petersburg on emergency medical services. Our board is committed to a consistent and uniform application of any changes."

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. and end late in the afternoon at the Collaborative Lab at St. Petersburg College, 13805 58th St. N, Largo. The meeting is open to the public for observation.

Reach Anne Lindberg at alindberg@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8450.

Pinellas EMS scene has legislators, St. Petersburg talking with county 10/29/11 [Last modified: Saturday, October 29, 2011 4:30am]
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