Marco Council rejects county's EMS proposal; feels it's already overpaying

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

Following the recommendation of Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy, the Marco Island City Council will not accept any of the options Collier County has presented them for increasing ambulance service on the island.

While the county had presented the city with two options that would have required taxpayers to kick in additional funds, Murphy rejected the idea citing that the city is not getting what it is already paying for.

As a counter-proposal, Murphy suggested that the ambulance unit at the Isles of Capri, which ran 187 calls within its district, be positioned to Marco Island, whose call load was more than 12 times that amount.

“A $1 million unit is sitting across the bridge running 187 (calls) in their zone,” Murphy said. “They moved up over 800 times in one year to cover our station when our truck took off or Medic Rescue 50 took off.”

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The city of Marco Island has been trying to increase ambulance service for years but was forced to go back to the drawing board in August after voters rejected a proposal for the city to create its own EMS department.

In the past, the county had rejected claims that city needed an additional ambulance, forcing the city to look at ways to bypass the requirement for a county issued Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity to create its own services.

After the Aug. 28 referendum failed, City Council reopened negotiations with the county and were presented with two options by Collier County Manager Leo Ochs.

Ochs offered to add an ambulance for 12 hours per day, seven days per week throughout the year at a cost of $138,520.82 to both the city and county.

The other option was for an ambulance 24 hours per day, seven days per week and for the entire year but shifted the majority of the costs to the city.

Citing the belief that the city did not need this much service, Ochs wrote that the county’s costs would not differ from option one and the city’s costs would increase to $415,562.50.

“If the city choose option #2, the County’s funding commitment would be limited to the cost of the 12 hours per day unit for 12 months (Option #1),” Ochs wrote. “Based on the enclosed data, I cannot justify adding a 24 hour per day, 7 days per week second ambulance on Marco Island for 12 months.”

In addition to those costs, the city would have had to pay for a portion of a $280,000 ambulance with the split to be determined based upon whichever option the city chose.

Marco Island Fire-Rescue Chief Mike Murphy

Murphy said a consultant the city previously utilized to perform a study regarding EMS services found that Marco Island citizens already paid nearly $3 million annually to the county for its current level of service.

However, that level of service was worth about $1.15 million in structured costs while the county also collected about $1 million in transport fees off of the island, Murphy said.

“As you can see from my recommendation, I, as the fire chief, do not recommend that the citizens of Marco Island pay any more money for the stationing of a county transport ambulance on this island,” Murphy said. “The logic part of that is I truly believe they are already paying for three units.”

Murphy said that because the city was not getting the return on its investment, those funds would be better utilized for internal city projects.

Accepting Murphy’s recommendation, the City Council has asked City Manager David Harden to take Murphy’s proposal back to the county and continue negotiations.

Council Chairperson Erik Brechnitz said the EMS issue is the latest example of Marco Island taxpayer dollars going to supplement the county and the city not getting an equal return on its contributions.

“It should come to no one’s surprise that we’re a donor community to the county,” Brechnitz said. “We’re a donor community in every aspect: schools, tourist development dollars. We’re going to collect $490 million dollars of sales tax revenue for the county and we’re going to get $23 million.”

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