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First responder contracts moving forward
County and municipalities come to agreement on funding
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CLEARWATER – Good news for Pinellas County residents, the war over funding of first responder service may be over.

Pinellas County Commissioners, sitting as the Emergency Medical Services Authority, unanimously approved a master agreement Aug. 19 with 17 municipalities and fire districts to provide advanced life support first responder service in the next fiscal year.

They also unanimously approved a resolution with revised criteria for figuring out “reasonable and customary cost” of EMS providers. The providers rejected a previous plan to change how costs were distributed.

County Administrator Mark Woodard thanked staff for work done to resolve the conflict and control EMS costs.

“There is a positive indicator that all parties will take this back to their respective councils and come back one by one (with approval),” Woodard said.

The city of Largo approved its agreement Aug. 19.

In a memo to commissioners, Interim Chief of Staff Bruce Moeller said the resolution would “level the playing field for all EMS providers.”

“The cost components mirror the EMS cost components that have been allowed for the cities of Pinellas Park and St. Petersburg since the early 90s,” he said.

“Good job!” said Commission Chair Karen Seel. “We should all stand up and cheer.”

Commissioner Norm Roche agreed that the work staff had done to defuse what had been a volatile situation was good, “but we should not rest on our laurels.”

“We need to keep moving forward,” he said, adding that managing cost of EMS would be a “longtime challenge.”

Woodard said the new contract would provide fiscal sustainability.

“It should keep the (EMS) millage constant through the end of the decade,” he said. “It levels the playing field. We treat each partner as uniformly as possible.”

Commissioner John Morroni praised Woodard and Moeller for their work and declared it to be Woodard’s first great accomplishment as county administrator.

“Excellent, excellent work done,” Seel added. “I’m very proud of where we are. I look forward to continuing the dialogue.”

In related business, the EMS Authority approved changes to boundaries of two EMS districts.

Upon request by the town of Kenneth City, it will become part of the Lealman district. The city of Pinellas Park, which provides service in Kenneth City, has agreed with the change.

Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District will get back a portion of its territory taken away in 2010. PSF&RD provides service to the mainland in the Oakhurst area. In 2010, the county revised the district boundaries, giving Seminole Fire Rescue a piece that had been served by Suncoast. The Aug. 20 vote returns the boundaries to pre-2010.

The county’s designated EMS districts include East Lake Fire and Rescue District, Gulfport, Madeira Beach, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor Fire and Rescue District, Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District, St. Pete Beach, South Pasadena, Tierra Verde Fire District (including Ft. De Soto) and Treasure Island.

Designated Emergency Medical Districts include Clearwater and the Clearwater Fire District; Dunedin and the Dunedin Fire District; Largo and the Largo Fire District, serving Highpoint Fire District, Belleair, Belleair Bluffs and Belleair Bluffs Fire District; Lealman Fire District and Kenneth City; Pinellas Park and Pinellas Park Fire District; Safety Harbor and Safety Harbor Fire District; St. Petersburg and a portion of the Highpoint Fire District and Gandy Fire District; and Tarpon Springs and Tarpon Springs Fire District.

The towns of Redington Beach, Redington Shores and North Redington Beach have interlocal agreements with Seminole and Madeira Beach for fire and rescue service. The EMS Authority created a Redington Beaches Emergency Medical Services District to be served by Seminole and Madeira Beach.

In final business, the EMS Authority approved the reappointment of Chris Arbutine Sr., Doug Bevis and Travis Palladeno as mayor’s council representatives to the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board.

Phillip Nicotera was reappointed as the representative for St. Petersburg College. Gayle Guidash was reappointed as the representative for the Pinellas County Health Department. Amber Boulding was appointed as an alternative representative for the health department.

Anne Scofield and Scott Kuebler were reappointed as citizen representatives. All appointees serve two-year terms.
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