An effort by the Bonita Springs fire district to provide its own ambulance service was dealt a recent blow by Lee County commissioners.
During their Jan. 31 meeting, Commissioner Ray Judah made a motion to move forward with a public hearing, which is part of the district's request for a certificate to operate an ambulance transport service. However, the motion died without another commissioner seconding it.
"This board has voted no twice," said Commissioner Tammy Hall, who does not support the fire district's application. "I don't see the benefit to the community or the fire department."
The Bonita Springs Fire Control and Rescue District filed an application with Lee County in May 2010 for its own ambulance transport service.
Currently, Lee County EMS provides ambulance services to Bonita Springs. But Bonita Springs fire officials believe they can use their 44 emergency medical technicians and 36 paramedics to provide a better service at less cost for taxpayers.
Bonita Springs officials say they would provide four 24-hour ambulances compared to Lee County EMS's two 24-hour and one 12-hour ambulances.
"We could provide a more efficient service by doing it ourselves and augment the county in relieving some of their obligations in the Bonita area," Bonita Springs Fire Chief P.H. Kinsey Jr. said.
However, both Lee County and the fire district have conducted studies on the issue, and their numbers don't line up. Some commissioners believe it would cost more for Bonita Springs to run its own ambulance service.
In October, the commissioners voted refused to grant or deny the Bonita Springs fire district a certificate to operate an ambulance transport service. Instead, they unanimously agreed to hire an independent public hearing officer to present an unbiased recommendation. The $20,000 cost would be split evenly between the county and the fire district.
But the county also requested a financial review of the fire district's budget, the cost of which would have also been split by the two sides. That turned out to be a deal breaker for Bonita fire officials who, according to Kinsey, don't want to "help the enemy."
"We need a forensic auditor for answers," said Commissioner Frank Mann. "I think it's important to include and critically important Bonita share (in the cost of a forensic audit)."
Judah, who thought both sides were on the way to resolving their issues through hiring the public hearing officer, said the bottom line is Bonita Springs made the request and necessary information on what is at stake needs to be on the table.
Since Judah's motion failed, there will not be a public hearing with an independent third party. The fire district's initial request for an ambulance certificate will go back before commissioners for a vote.
A date for that vote has not been set.