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Chiefland does not get all it wants

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By Lou Elliott Jones, Editor

Much like the song “You don’t always get what you want,” the City of Chiefland found itself left wanting after the Levy County Commission on Tuesday.

But as the song goes on “you get what you need”, Chiefland will have to decide as it only got parity with the City of Williston’s fire department in budget appropriations.

While the atmosphere was quieter than the commission meeting two weeks ago, it did not go as hoped for the Chiefland delegation of Vice Mayor Teresa Barron, Fire Rescue Chief James Harris and Deputy Fire Chief Gene Stockman.

Barron presented a pared-down budget increase request, seeking $35,000 instead of the $48,000 sought two weeks ago by the city. Chiefland fire has received $199,367 for the past three years from the county under a contract to provide services in County Fire District 7, and automatic and mutual aid in other areas of the unincorporated county. 

Williston, a similarly sized city, that also provides service to unincorporated areas of the county has received $204,754 from the commission.  

The commission, on a motion by Commissioner John Meeks of Bronson (R-District 1) and seconded by Commissioner Chad Johnson of Chiefland (R-District 2) approved by a 3-2 vote increasing Chiefland’s payment to equal that made to Williston and a one-time 6-percent payment for equipment and materials. Commissioners Danny Stevens of Williston (R-District 5) and Mike Joyner (R-District 3) dissented. The 6 percent one-time payment means Chiefland will get another $12,300. 

The vote came after a motion by Stevens to keep the appropriation the same as last year’s failed. The split was the same with Joyner and Stevens voting for the motion and Bell, Meeks and Johnson voting “no.” 

The commission also voted unanimously against:

• Giving the city a Certificate of Need that would allow firefighters who are also trained paramedics to provide Advanced Life Support while awaiting transport for injured and sick residents. 

•? Making contract payments at the start of the quarter rather than being invoiced at the end of each quarter, and

•? Holding off on stationing a second ambulance at the Chiefland Emergency Medical Service station on West Park Avenue. The county once had two ambulances stationed in Chiefland and Williston, but pulled one from each city due to budget constraints when the recession hit in 2009.

Barron said the $35,000 represented a match to the $30,000 the city is adding to the cire department budget despite being strapped for money. She said the Chiefland department is being stretched to answer calls in the county when the county fire departments cannot cover them, requiring additional personnel as the city must bring water with them to fires in the county, and leaving the city without coverage. She said the money is needed for manpower. 

ÅgThe funds that we have right now are just too much bare bones,Åh Barron said. 

Later she said, ÅgWe’ve been frugal with our money and we’re coming to the county commission to help with our problems.Åh She said the county’s goal is to have two firefighters on duty round the clock, byt many times there is only one person on duty and the city must answer 1,300 calls per year.

She said approving ALS capability for the city’s firefighter-paramedics would mean a chance that patients or the injured would be able to survive a heart attack, stroke or injuries. 

Harris asked the commission to consider the amount of traffic passing through the city and the number of accidents that occur on area roads. 

Quoting from the contract between the city and the county, at one point Stockman reminded the county of its agreement to seek out other funds for the department. ÅgYou went from $40 to $90 for the (fire)  assessment and we didn’t get any and now I see from the TRIM notice I got you’re going from $90 to $110 for everyone in the county. Chiefland cannot be doing what its doing running outside of our district.Åh

County Coordinator Fred Moody said the county is not increasing the fire assessment as it did last year, noting that the $110 is a maximum, but the county intends to keep the assessment at $90. He said the county took the move to avoid the cost of having to mail a notice to every property owner 

County Property Appraiser Oz Barker’s office provided an invoice showing the mailing of the TRIM notices last month cost $12,550 in postage. 

When Barron noted that the $90 assessment brings in about $2 million, Bell defended the county holding back on some money.

ÅgThere’s a lot of intangibles in there including communications and that’s a million dollars. There’s a lot of things that come out of the budget that’s not being discussed here today,Åh he said. 

When the commissioners went to vote, Stockman said, ÅgI’m concerned it’s not going to do what we want to do. If this motion carries the county needs to understand from this point forward our paid person is going to have to stay within District 7 and anything beyond what we’re contracted to provide will be provided by volunteers.Åh

Stockman’s comment echoed one made in last week’s Chiefland City Commission meeting that a volunteer would be called to answer a dispatch, but t could be a Åga volunteer who is coming from 50 miles away.Åh