Fire Service Cutbacks?
Alachua County Commissioners will meet on Monday night with the six cities, which include Hawthorne, High Springs, La Crosse, Micanopy, Newberry and Waldo, that make up the Municipal Fire Authority. Without additional money, their city limits may turn into iron curtains.
The fight is over about $700,000 that the six cities in the Municipal Fire Authority say they need from Alachua County for all the emergencies the MFA responds to. That;s about double what the MFA receives from the county currently.
Lights flashing and sirens blaring at the High Springs Fire Department. But for city leaders, responding to emergencies outside city limits is becoming a financial emergency.
"You just can't keep supplying and supplementing costs for service for your citizens at the dollars we have," said Larry Travis, High Springs Mayor and Chair of the MFA. "So we've got to make an adjustment there. We just have to."
Travis says it cost city residents $350,000 to buy a fire truck on their own with no help from the county. However, more than 50 percent of calls are outside city limits, which is costly in terms of diesel fuel and manpower. And it also means less coverage for the citizens who bought the truck in the first place.
Alachua County pays the municipalities based on the number of calls in a district outside of city limits that High Springs responds to. That payment went down last year as the city limits expanded. But on emergency responses due to mutual aid outside a city's district, municipalities are not compensated.
"Tax dollars collected in unincorporated areas of county used to pay for fire service in Alachua, provided by the High Springs Fire Department, that doesn't compute," said Keith Godwin, Alachua County Fire Rescue Program Manager.
But Travis says if money doesn't start computing before October 1st, these six cities will stop responding.
"We work over 210 calls in the city of Alachua and other places and we just can't keep not being paid for that," said Travis.
"It's an atrocity that a fire department would not cross city limit lines to respond to someone's illness, or injury or home being on fire," said Godwin.
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