Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Pinellas fire service consolidation could save millions, says report

Pinellas taxpayers could save millions if all fire protection were merged into one agency and officials should take steps to create a countywide fire service, according to the conclusions of a county audit.

The report by Clerk of Court Ken Burke, who acts as the county auditor, estimates that taxpayers could save between $10 million and $39.2 million annually by consolidating service. The cost savings would come from the elimination of "overlaps, duplication of management structure and other procedures" that currently characterize fire delivery by the 19 departments that provide service to the county's municipalities and unincorporated areas.

The report acknowledges, however, that consolidation is unlikely to happen anytime soon. Past attempts have failed because the county and municipalities could not agree on a plan. Any countywide consolidation would also require action by the state Legislature and/or a change in the county charter.

"Our recommendation is to start to address the issue of consolidation," said Bob Melton, director of internal audit in the county clerk's office.

One possible starting point, Melton said, is for the County Commission to begin revamping service in the unincorporated area. Some of those areas get their fire service from independent fire districts funded by property taxes. The county contracts with cities to cover some other unincorporated areas.

It's those contracts the County Commission could most easily change, Melton said.

The release of the fire audit comes days before the County Commission is scheduled to hold a public hearing to consider adopting standards regarding costs and performance for the EMS system. That hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.

Although fire and EMS services are delivered by the same people, Pinellas Park fire Chief Doug Lewis, head of the county's fire chiefs association, said he does not think the audit will influence Friday's vote. But some of the objections fire chiefs, firefighters and others have to possible changes in the EMS service also apply to consolidation of fire service.

Among those is a fear of job loss. Firefighters have bought an ad in the St. Petersburg Times suggesting that reducing the number of EMS vehicles could endanger lives by increasing response time. Winthrop Newton, head of the St. Petersburg Association of Firefighters, which also represents Lealman firefighters, said increasing response time by a minute or so doesn't sound like a lot unless you're the one who is having the heart attack or whose building is burning.

Newton agreed there is duplication of service at the county level and at the administrative level. Any cuts, he said, should come from those levels.

Pinellas fire service consolidation could save millions, says report 03/17/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 4:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Trump sprinkles political attacks into Scout Jamboree speech

    GLEN JEAN, W.Va. — Ahead of President Donald Trump's appearance Monday at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia, the troops were offered some advice on the gathering's official blog: Fully hydrate. Be "courteous" and "kind." And avoid the kind of divisive chants heard during the 2016 campaign such as "build …

    President Donald Trump addresses the Boy Scouts of America's 2017 National Scout Jamboree at the Summit Bechtel National Scout Reserve in Glen Jean, W.Va., July 24, 2017. [New York Times]
  2. Trump, seething about attorney general, speculates about firing Sessions, sources say

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has spoken with advisers about firing Attorney General Jeff Sessions, as he continues to rage against Sessions' decision to recuse himself from all matters related to the Russia investigation.

  3. John McCain to return to Senate for health care vote

    WASHINGTON — The Senate plans to vote Tuesday to try to advance a sweeping rewrite of the nation's health-care laws with the last-minute arrival of Sen. John McCain — but tough talk from President Donald Trump won no new public support from skeptical GOP senators for the flagging effort that all but …

  4. Last orca calf born in captivity at a SeaWorld park dies

    Tourism

    ORLANDO — The last killer whale born in captivity under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program died Monday at the company's San Antonio, Texas, park, SeaWorld said.

    Thet orca Takara helps guide her newborn, Kyara, to the water's surface at SeaWorld San Antonio in San Antonio, Texas, in April. Kyara was the final killer whale born under SeaWorld's former orca-breeding program. The Orlando-based company says 3-month-old Kyara died Monday. [Chris Gotshall/SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment via AP]
  5. Blake Snell steps up, but Rays lose to Orioles anyway (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Blake Snell stepped up when he had to Monday and delivered an impressive career-high seven-plus innings for the Rays. That it wasn't enough in what ended up a 5-0 loss to the Orioles that was their season-high fifth straight is symptomatic of the mess they are in right now.

    Tim Beckham stands hands on hips after being doubled off first.