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Palm Coast Monday, Apr. 4, 2016 3 years ago

County reconsiders proposed meeting with Palm Coast City Council over emergency medical services

With an election coming up, it might make sense to wait until it's over to discuss EMS plans, officials said.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

For months, the Flagler County Commission and the Palm Coast City Council have gone back and forth over issues of ambulances and fire trucks.

Palm Coast officials would talk about emergency medical services at a City Council meeting; county officials at a County Commission meeting would say they disagreed with something the city officials had said; the city officials would address the issue again at the next City Council meeting, and on the two sides would go, never meeting face to face.

For a while, it looked like the two government bodies would finally be in the same room at the same time. Now it looks like they might not — at least, not for months.

Palm Coast Mayor Jon Netts wrote a letter to the County Commission March 17 requesting a joint meeting, and at first, county officials seemed willing to meet and talked about setting a date for a meeting, though not all were enthusiastic.

"Has anyone specified what the problem is that we’re trying to fix?" Commissioner Frank Meeker said at a County Commission meeting March 21. "Because I thought the only issue was they don't like taking large, $800,000 to million-dollar fire trucks out on emergency calls. I thought that was the only issue, really: How do you save money and not use those vehicles. I’m not sure why we’re involved in that discussion."

Palm Coast officials have said the city/county system involves a duplication of services. Palm Coast can't transport patients to the hospital without county approval, which it doesn't have, but city fire stations are often closer to the source of a call than a county ambulance is. So on emergency calls, the city sends out paramedics on fire trucks, who aid a patient until a county ambulance can arrive to take them to the hospital.

City officials have called that a duplication of service, and one that's costly for the city because fire trucks are expensive to run and maintain. They've proposed placing county ambulances in two city fire stations so that a single ambulance could go out with a joint city/county paramedic staff, but county officials have noted potential problems with that plan.

Netts proposed the meeting, and the county was considering dates.

But now, the County Commission is rethinking the issue. It's an election year, and at least three of the City Council's five members won't be there after the election: Mayor Jon Netts, who is term-limited; Councilman Bill McGuire, who's decided not to run for reelection; and Councilman Jason DeLorenzo, who's running for County Commission. 

Three County Commission seats — those held by commissioners George Hanns, Barbara Revels and Charlie Ericksen — will also be contested. 

The EMS issue wasn't on the County Commission agenda for the commission's April 4 meeting, but County Commissioner Nate McLaughlin brought it up in his comments at the end of the meeting. 

"Recognizing, as a resident of Palm Coast, my concerns are duplication of services," he said, "Mr. Meeker brought up a great question in the last meeting: 'What's broken that we're trying to fix?' And, giving this a lot of thought, recognizing that essentially, the City Council are going to  have — unquestionably — three new members that may or may not feel a certain way ... I would ask this board to consider postponing until new boards are seated."

Ericksen also didn't see an immediate need for a meeting, and didn't object to delaying it. Hanns and Revels, the board's chairwoman, weren't ready to immediately agree to put off the meeting. Meeker was absent.

"I don't hear a majority consensus on this," Revels said. "I do hear, though, that we are not a majority in agreement to meet with them."

She proposed discussing the issue at a future meeting, when Meeker will be present. In the meantime, she said, she'll reply to Netts' letter and suggest a one-on-one meeting between herself and Netts.

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