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Pay more for an ambulance in Pinellas? | News

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Pay more for an ambulance in Pinellas?
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Pay more for an ambulance in Pinellas?

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Pinellas County has one of Florida's best EMS networks with response times well below that of similar sized counties.

However, Pinellas County commissioners say the system is unsustainable and needs to change. That assertion has the county's largest city, St. Petersburg, upset.

"I think for St. Pete the system we have today is the best system," Fire Chief Jim Large told us.

His counterpart with the St. Petersburg firefighters' union, Mike Blank, agrees, "The current system, in my opinion, is not broken. It just needs to be funded."

Everyone agrees maintaining the current system as is will likely involve tax increases. One debate is over whether those increases should spread evenly throughout the county.

Pinellas commissioners seem to favor creating EMS taxing districts to charge taxpayers different amounts based on how much their city uses emergency services - even though it's a countywide system.

A St. Petersburg Times analysis of that plan shows cities like St. Petersburg, Lealman, South Pasadena, and Pinellas Park could see their taxes skyrocket. Meanwhile, the Times analysis predicted cities like Treasure Island and Tarpon Springs could see substantial tax cuts.

That's why St. Petersburg now wants out of the county system to go it alone.

"The EMS tax... it's going to generate about $10.5 million," says St. Pete Fire Chief Jim Large. "Our position is: we collect that $10.5 million and we'll determine the resources and the level of service. And we'll make sure it works in St. Pete, and we won't have another government body trying to dictate to us how to do it."

Like 10 News first told you about weeks ago, proposed changes could also mean you wait longer for an ambulance. Some firefighters argue priority dispatching of emergency calls could leave some people waiting far longer than they would now. "The level of response will be changed drastically, and there will be no savings. There will be no savings whatsoever," predicts St. Pete Fire union President Mike Blank.

PINELLAS COUNTY COMMISSION MEETING

Tuesday, December 20th @ 3:00 p.m.

315 Court St, 5th Floor, Clearwater

To learn more about Pinellas County's findings on the EMS proposals, visit: http://www.pinellascounty.org/emsstudy/

To read about St. Petersburg's views on the debate, visit: http://firetransport.org/

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