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Florida Fire Chief Recommends City Take Over EMS from County

VENICE - Venice Fire Chief Jim Warman is recommending the city take over emergency medical service within city limits. EMS is currently provided by Sarasota County firemedics.

In a letter dated Dec. 26 to City Manager Ed Lavallee, Warman said 911 responses and the number of EMS transports from Venice's three fire stations have steadily increased over the last three years 'providing an opportunity for the city to benefit from the current EMS millage and transport revenues to supplement an inefficient fire department staffing model.'

'My recommendation is that the city should negotiate with Sarasota County to issue a certificate of public convenience and necessity to allow the city to take over the EMS responsibilities within city limits.'

Twice previously the city has attempted to do so, but it was rebuffed by county commissioners.

During a discussion of joint council/commission meeting agenda items Tuesday, the Venice City Council opted not to discuss the issue with county commissioners. The meeting is planned for February.

They did, however, direct Warman to make a formal presentation at a future meeting, at which they could consider making a formal request to withdraw from the current arrangement with the county.

A previous study by International City/County Management Association, released in August 2011, identified $1 million in potential budget cuts within the department's $5.3 million budget, and suggested the city could generate new revenue by assuming EMS service.

'Based on the number of Venice rescue transports in 2012 (10,500 calculated at $600 with a 60 percent collection rate), $3.78 million is generated,' Warman said.

He believes the VFD can provide the additional personnel at less than the $2.55 million the county spends, and reduce operational and capital costs as well.

Bottom line: 'Adding the $1.8 million from the EMS millage, the city would greatly benefit from providing its own fire and EMS,' Warman said.

He recommended a two-year transition period, giving the city time to staff the necessary positions.

Warman and council members stressed those numbers are preliminary.

They also stressed they're not interested in getting into a confrontation with the county about the matter.

Lavallee said he didn't think that's the case because County Commissioner Christine Robinson at the last joint meeting volunteered to give EMS back to the city if the city desired.

It wasn't clear, however, if her comment was borne out of frustration with other common problems such as the transfer of road maintenance and a less-than-fluid line of communication, or had the backing of other members. She was the only commissioner to speak substantively on the EMS issue.



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