Lives on the Line?
By Dan Breitwieser, WCJB TV 20 News.
That scenario could become a possibility in Lake City where city and Columbia County officials are fighting over how emergency services are paid for.
The dispute is over 250- thousand dollars a year. Residents hope that's not the difference between life and death.
Today it doesn't matter where Columbia County paramedics are going. Somewhere in the county or somewhere inside Lake City city limits.
Lake City resident Sara Chancey has never had to use one, and hopes she never does.
"I would definitely want those services to be available," says Chancey. "I would hate to think that because of people fighting over who wants to pay more taxes or not pay more taxes that this service wouldn't be provided to me."
Columbia County Manager Dale Williams says it's an issue of fairness. The county subsidizes about 1.3 million dollars of the cost to run EMS through the small county surtax.
The city gets part of that surtax. But for this year and future years city officials don't plan on helping pay for emergency services.
Williams says Columbia County Commissioners have tossed out the idea of keeping ambulances from going into city limits if Lake City doesn't pay up.
"That would be a measure of last resort," says Williams. "But the county does believe it's important for the city to understand the urgency of the issue and the fairness of the issue."
Interim Lake City City Manager Scott Reynolds says city residents already pay their fair share through property taxes and funding for EMS could come out of that revenue.
"Also, the lake city fire department are first responders to stabilize patients," says Reynolds. "We are also giving in-kind contributions to stabilize patients so if transport is needed the county can do that."
Reynolds says the cost to the city for first response outside city limits is about 700- thousand dollars.
Both city and county officials have asked the state attorney general to give an opinion.
But Chancey just hopes city residents like herself aren't caught in the middle.
"It shouldn't be an option," says Chancey. "EMS services should be for everyone."
Both men said their respective leaders would abide by the attorney general's judgment and keep emergency services from being discontinued inside city limits.
In Alachua County, Gainesville doesn't pay anything for EMS transport services. But in Marion County, Ocala and two hospitals help subsidize the cost.
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