Marco Island continues to seek increased ambulance service despite COPCN vote

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

Marco Island voters may have struck down increasing taxes to fund a locally controlled emergency medical services system but the discussion is not over.

The Marco Island City Council has asked acting city manager Guillermo Polanco to draft a letter to Collier County requesting a preliminary meeting to negotiate securing a second full-time ambulance for the city.

Chairman Jared Grifoni made the suggestion in noting that the city and county were going to have a joint meeting in the future, which was going to include discussion about the city's certificate of public convenience and necessity.

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Marco Island has been trying for years to increase ambulance coverage but talks with the county have always stagnated. Currently, the city has one full-time ambulance and a seconded ambulance is added during season. The lack of progress in securing additional services prompted the city last year to move forward with a three-prong approach that included:

  • Working with legislators on a local bill to bypass county approval of a COPCN
  • Applying to the county for a COPCN
  • Continued negotiations with the county to increase service

Marco Island's efforts were aided in March when Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill that would allow Marco Island to apply to the state's Department of Health for its COPCN if the County did not approve its application. One of the conditions attached to the bill was that voters need to approve the referendum.

The Collier County Board of Commissioners conditionally approved Marco Island's application but voter approval of the referendum was attached as one of the conditions.

The Aug. 28 referendum asked Marco Island voters if they approved additional taxation of $100 per $500,000 taxable valuation to fund the system, but it failed by a margin of 440 votes, 3,015-2,575.

Although the referendum failed, the vote tally and responses from the community have prompted the discussion to take on new life.

In discussing the millage rate, Councilor Howard Reed suggested that the city set the rate above roll-back so that the city could provide services that the community wants.

Although 54 percent voted against the proposal, Reed said that there were people among that group that believed the city needed increased ambulance service, which it could get from the county.

'They didn't think we're ready," Reed said. "That was the most consistent response I received personally and those that worked the polling places received."

Prior to the referendum, the county had proposed three alternatives to the city that would increase service without the need for a locally controlled system. The highest cost proposal was a little less than $515,000.

The City Council will discuss the letter it intends to send to Collier County at Monday's meeting.

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