Largo Commission Slams County Board on EMS Cuts
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO – In the face of reduced Penny for Pinellas funds, lower income derived from property values and an almost certain tax increase, the City Commission adopted Tuesday night a Capital Improvement Program that totals almost $183 million over the next five years.
The commission also approved a resolution slamming the County Commission’s plan for Emergency Medical Services and looked at the administration’s budget prioritization.
As a sidelight, and amazing in its context, was the revelation in the Manager’s Report of last week was the information that a copy of the citywide sidewalk master plan was placed in the City Commission work room.
Sidewalks – that is, the lack of same – is a hot topic in the city these days. Very little has been done to accomplish citizen demands, even though Bob Jackson, a former mayor, has been in the forefront of the movement to get something done.
So many observers found it shocking that the master plan for sidewalks would be sidetracked into the so-called “work room” of the commission, rather than being available to the public at City Hall.
Of course, the commission can do no “work” except in public view at regular and work session meetings. The “work room” is just off the dais where commissioners usually have refreshments.
The CIP at this point is merely a “wish list,” so the spending contained it – some of it extravagant – and its adoption is a requirement of law.
Commission action at this point neither approves, authorizes or appropriates any money for carrying out any of the projects which are essentially a “dream list” of the city administration.
At the commission’s last regular meeting direction was given to prepare a resolution regarding the reduction in levels of service in EMS as ordained by the County Commission.
Some of the definitions set forth by the county body lead to the reduction of first responder units and target the removal of paramedics from Largo Fire and Rescue station at East Bay Drive and Belcher Road.
In light of this, Largo officials have said that these reductions will have a significantly negative impact on the department to provide efficient and quality service to people in the city and county.
The language in the resolution adopted by the commission Tuesday night is stark and forthright and highly critical of the County Commission decision.
“The City of Largo opposes the level of service and criteria for reasonable and customary costs . . .” and that “additional revenues from ambulance billing . . . funds from the reserves and an increase in EMS tax to fully fund the EMS at the current level of service.”
The resolution also demands that “long term, sustainable modifications” to the system be explored to avoid degradation of the service.
A big problem with EMS today, as viewed by some who have examined the system, is that there is duplication of service. Why SunStar Ambulance is utilized is a big question.
Every EMS call initiates a two-vehicle response, one from the rescue responder and the other SunStar. The one from SunStar virtually becomes a taxi ride for which the stricken person is billed $500. That money is then split with the county and those funds become a sort of “slush fund.” Wasteful, to say the least, and apparently a rip-off.
The budget priorities derived from a work session meeting in February and presented by the administration Tuesday night are –
1. Technology enhancements; 2. Partnering opportunities; 3. employee compensation and benefits; 4. how to pay for government services (taxes balanced against fees); 5. determining appropriate levels of service; 6. strategic plan elements.
Return to Current Edition