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Hillsborough EMS Crews Get Nod To Work Buccaneers Games

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County (Fla.) EMS workers will get a shot at treating the injured at Buccaneers games.

The Tampa Sports Authority voted 6-5 Monday to allow Hillsborough Fire Rescue to work the games, even though Tampa rescue workers have exclusively held the job for 30 years.

The decision gives off-duty Hillsborough EMS workers an opportunity to earn $25 to $35 an hour and ends a two-month jurisdictional spat.

“This is a matter of fairness,” County Commissioner Jim Norman, a sports authority member, said shortly before the vote.

Bill Buckner, another authority member, argued the issue was about jurisdiction and noted the authority had no qualms with the service it’s been getting from the city’s EMS squad. The stadium is on North Dale Mabry Highway, inside Tampa city limits.

The authority’s staff will be responsible for figuring out how the sides cooperate.

George Sucarichi, president of the county firefighters union, said the EMS squads might work alternate home games or work the same games but at opposite ends of the stadium.

“That still has to be worked out,” he said.

The board’s narrow decision followed nearly an hour of discussion in which the sides received 20 minutes each to make their case.

The issue dates back to February, when Norman recommended county workers get a shot at sharing the jobs to earn extra money. The suggestion sparked a flurry of legal opinions by the county, city and the unions representing the workers.

Last week, the matter seemed resolved in favor of Tampa Fire Rescue when John Van Voris, the sports authority’s attorney, issued an opinion that a county ordinance about jurisdiction gives the right to work at the stadium to Tampa Fire Rescue.

But Norman countered that Hillsborough Fire Rescue employees can work anywhere in the county and that the ordinance will probably be amended.

On Monday, Sucarichi produced a letter from the International Association of Fire Fighters saying there weren’t any jurisdictional issues because the stadium work involved off-duty rescue workers.

He threatened to go to court if necessary.

Robert McCabe, attorney for the Tampa firefighters union, also threatened to go to court and maintained that the county didn’t have jurisdiction to work the games, despite what the international union said.

After an hour, Norman said he never meant for the issue to escalate to this point.

“For this to come to this, lawsuits and all this kind of stuff over something that is the right thing to do. To have the men and women of this community share part-time work is the right thing to do. And that’s why I did this,” Norman said.

After the meeting, McCabe said the union has no plans to sue the authority. The sides still have to figure out how to share the workload.

Reporter Rich Shopes can be reached at (813) 259-7633 or at [email protected]