Collier County staff, EMA lay out preferred conditions for COPCN

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle

Based on the dictionary definition of necessity, members of the Emergency Medical Authority were in agreement that the city of Marco Island’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity Application did not meet the literal meeting as governed by the county ordinance.

The board, however, voted 3-2 May 1 to recommend approval of a conditional COPCN to Collier County Board of Commissioners because it appeared inevitable that Marco Island would get COPCN approved at the state level after Aug. 28 when its voters will decide if the city will have local control of its emergency medical services.

Chairman Edwin Fryer said the fear was that without the proper interlocal agreement, the county could be harmed in a multitude of ways so before the commissioners meet on May 22 to consider Marco Island’s application, five conditions have been recommended in the board’s majority report.

“I want to emphasize that the best solution is for a Collier County COPCN,” Fryer said. “That includes a medical director and oversight and if there is resistance, I fear the result is costly litigation.”

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Marco Island has been attempting to increase its ambulance services for years.

Last year, the City Council approved a three-prong process to secure an additional ambulance and take control of some local EMS services.

The plan included negotiating with Collier County, submitting a COPCN application and working with state legislators on a local bill to bypass the need for authorization from the county.

In what Marco’s elected officials called a “Hail Mary,” Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that will allow Marco Island residents the opportunity to vote Aug. 28 on whether they want local control of emergency medical services.

The City Council has already approved the COPCN referendum ballot language.

On the ballot, it will note that if approved, property owners will pay an additional $100 in taxes per $500,000 taxable valuation.

During the EMA's May 1 meeting, its members conceded that the current system was not perfect and there were reasonable issues raised by Marco Island such as its paramedics being handcuffed regarding administration of certain drugs.

However, it was also noted that the level of service would not change much, if at all, from current levels.

With Marco Island in the driver’s seat as a result of the referendum, the EMA noted that its responsibility was to the county’s well-being first and authorized Fryer to facilitate discussions between the county and Marco Island about what an interlocal agreement should look like.

In the time since the EMA’s decision, Fryer met with EMS Chief Tabatha Butcher and Director of Collier County Bureau of Emergency Services Dan Summers about their concerns about system fragmentation and how the county could be negatively impacted.

This resulted in the five conditions that included:

  • Majority approval by voters on Aug. 28
  • The city must deliver services of equal quality or greater than what’s currently offered
  • Participation of a medical director that will be designated as “assistant medical director of Collier County” 
  • Marco Island must remain a full participant in Collier County dispatch and automatic mutual aid system
  • COPCN shall not result in financial detriment including the city not seeking reimbursement of ad valorem taxes

In the report, Fryer noted that Marco Island did not participate in the discussion.

“The City’s case comprises bald assertions of greater benefit, lower cost, more resources and higher quality for not only Marco Island but, indeed, for the entire county,” the majority report stated. “In most cases, the city representatives have expressed their willingness to bring about these goals. The majority’s report offers several essential and concrete conditions to the granting of a COPCN, in order to assure those wishful expressions of willingness are actually given full force and effect.”

In a follow-up interview, Fryer noted that Marco Island said it was amenable to the discussions during the May 1 meeting but again chose not to participate.

“We offered the same opportunity with Marco,” Fryer said. “They were polite but refused to sit down.”

The next 'Town Hall Talk' on ambulance service is 5:30 p.m., Thursday at Mackle Park Community Center.

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