What's not in interlocal agreement may become sticking point for Marco COPCN application

Devan Patel
Marco Eagle
A Collier County EMS ambulance sits inside Marco Island's Station 50.

As it awaits the county’s decision on whether to grant local control of emergency medical services, the city of Marco Island and Collier County staffs have drafted an interlocal agreement.

Nearly one month ago, the Collier County Board of Commissioners considered the city’s Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity application but was uncomfortable with the lack of negotiations with respect to what an interlocal agreement would look like.

After the board continued the discussion until this Tuesday’s commission meeting, Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy said both staffs met and communicated over the last few weeks about 20 or so items the county staff wanted to be included in the document.

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The city has been looking to increase ambulance coverage for years after the county rebuffed numerous attempts to secure a second full-time ambulance on Marco Island.

Then came City Council's three-prong plan to facilitate an increase in service. The plan included continuing to negotiate with the county, submitting a COPCN application to the county and working with state representatives on a local bill that would allow the city to bypass county approval for a COPCN with voter approval.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill in late March, paving the way for the vote to take place on Aug. 28, but before the state would consider granting the COPCN, Marco Island would need to satisfy three requirements.

Those requirements were to hold a vote, having a third-party financial analysis and submitting a COPCN application to the county.

Currently, Marco Island has one full-time ambulance for the year and a second ambulance is added during season. Under the current proposal, Marco Island would have the second ambulance full-time and has proposed hiring 12 additional firefighter-paramedics to implement its own system.

As part of the approved ballot language, voters will decide whether Marco Island can levy an additional property tax of $100 per $500,000 taxable value to finance part of its EMS services. Revenues received from transport services would offset the remaining funds needed to finance operations.

If approved, Murphy said Marco Island’s EMS services would not start until May 2019 at the earliest.

While the County’s Emergency Medical Board found that Marco Island’s application did not meet the requirements for need outlined in the county’s ordinance, it voted to recommend a COPCN with conditions out of fear that a COPCN granted by the state could be more detrimental to the county.

What’s not in the agreement, however, will be a point of contention when the commission meets Tuesday.

Marco Island city staff struck from a proposed agreement that the city would not seek to recoup ad valorem taxes from the county if the COPCN is approved, stating that it was a policy decision to be made by city officials.

During Monday’s City Council meeting, Marco officials came to a consensus that it would not budge on giving up those rights.

“It’s a false issue and we should hold firm,” Councilor Larry Honig said. “If we’re going into this because we want to preserve our home-rule rights, then we shouldn’t give up other rights in exchange for that.”

County Manager Leo Ochs during a Collier County Commission meeting at the Collier County Manager building in Naples, Florida on Tuesday, June 23, 2015.

While he said “happy” was not a word he would use to describe the agreement, Collier County Manager Leo Ochs said that it was something he could live with on an operational level should the Board of Commissioners approve a COPCN with conditions.

Ochs said the board will consider Marco Island’s COPCN in two different items at Tuesday’s meeting.

The agenda includes discussion about the interlocal agreement proposed or an alternative as well as the actual COPCN application.

County staff’s position, however, has not changed despite working out a draft.

“Staff is still recommending denial based upon the city’s inability to satisfy the COPCN ordinance,” Ochs said.

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