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Tampa protects paramedics' turf

TAMPA — You'd think it was the Super Bowl, the way the Tampa City Council and Hillsborough County Commission are blitzing one another over the right to provide paramedic service at Raymond James Stadium.

The City Council on Thursday voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance that would make moonlighting work at Raymond James the exclusive right of the city's paramedics.

Then they scheduled a special meeting for May 20 to take a final vote on the rule, which would get the ordinance approved in lightning speed by council standards.

"We have been given this opportunity to clear the record once and for all," said council member Charlie Miranda.

The move comes the day after the Hillsborough County Commission took the first step toward changing one of its own ordinances to bolster the claim that county paramedics have a right to some of that lucrative extra work.

City and county leaders have been battling for months over who gets to earn extra pay by treating football fans and injured players at Tampa Bay Buccaneers games.

City emergency workers have done the off-duty work for years, and county workers want a piece of the action. Paramedics make $25 to $35 an hour for four to seven hours on game days.

And there's a political dynamic to the feud. Council members and county commissioners pay close attention to their respective, powerful firefighter unions, whose endorsements are highly coveted at election time.

County paramedics got permission last month from the Tampa Sports Authority to work some of the shifts, which rankled city leaders.

City attorneys have argued that, among other things, a county ordinance gives the work to Tampa paramedics because Raymond James is located within the city's boundaries.

The county has said the ordinance applies only to emergency calls, not moonlighting jobs. But to make it clear, they voted Wednesday to schedule a public hearing about changing the ordinance to make it more explicit.

The City Council fired back a day later, quickly passing its own ordinance. City attorney David Smith said the city ordinance takes precedence.

He notes that the county charter spells out that city ordinances "prevail" over any county ordinance within city limits, no matter which ordinance is passed first.

Last week, Miranda accused the county of a "hostile takeover," and council member Tom Scott wondered whether the county might someday try to take over paramedic services in Plant City or Temple Terrace.

"We want what's ours," said council member Gwen Miller.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa protects paramedics' turf 05/08/08 [Last modified: Sunday, May 11, 2008 10:38am]
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