Negotiations still ongoing in St. Pete EMS budget cuts

St. Petersburg, Florida – While the city negotiates potential budget to St. Petersburg emergency response services, at least some council members say there are options available if their budget is slashed.

"If there's a little old lady who was in her apartment, and she fell on the floor and she called 9-1-1 and they're going to evaluate –' well that's not really a big emergency, we'll leave her there'- she may be there for three hours," said an irritated council member Bill Dudley.

He argues that any such cuts would affect the level of service that St. Petersburg offers to its residents.

"We don't think it's fair because for a long time, we've operated at a level of efficiency below what their own funding formula would dictate," said Ian Womack with St. Petersburg Fire Rescue.

Pinellas County has proposed cutting St. Petersburg's budget of $12.6 million annually by $1.1 million annually.

"There was excess capacity within the system," said Pinellas Co. administrator Bob LaSala. "They have more staff than they need at all hours of the day in order to meet this standard, which is a gold standard in the United States."

As part of a 1989 legislative ruling, Pinellas County is required to keep St. Petersburg properly funded to support EMS.

Cuts to EMS have been an issue for four years, with negations handled by the previous administration.

In a letter written by Rick Kriseman, the current mayor agreed to cuts without residual affects to current service, but council members disagreed during Thursday's meeting to any financial cuts.

"They are negating our efficiency to save money and this is not acceptable," said council member Dudley.

Dudley said in the council meeting that if an agreement is not reached, legal avenues should be sought, or St. Petersburg should create its own emergency response services.


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