Venice may look to provide its own ambulance service

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SARASOTA COUNTY - The city of Venice is looking at possibly getting rid of county ambulances and start providing their own. It's a move city officials say could save taxpayers there hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

"We are exploring if we should take over that whole portion of the fire service," says Venice mayor John Holic.  Sarasota County ambulances are housed in Venice city fire stations next to city fire trucks, because of regulations on most emergencies they all go. "On most EMS calls we send a fire engine along with the ambulance for additional man power, but we get no revenue for it."

The county, which already charges Venice taxpayers for their service, also receives money from ambulance users -- upwards of $600 a trip, totaling nearly $4 million a year.

Holic says the city's fire chief believes it's likely they could be more efficient. "The Chief thinks we can do as good or better of a job then what is currently being performed for less money. That is what it's all about."

Holic says like North Port they now have the population to take over. "Venice has grown substantially. We are now a city of more than 21,000 people. We have surpassed that threshold mark of size needed to have its own ambulance."

The city has to actually be given a certificate of public convenience and necessity. The county has the final say. Something they have not approved on two previous attempts over the years. "At the last joint city county meeting we had the then chair of the county commission said if wanted to take over the EMS service we were more than welcome to do so."

County leaders we talked to Thursday say they need more facts before commenting publicly but say they too want to save tax payers money. Holic believes they could save their residents at least $500,000 a year. "I don't think anyone is dissatisfied with the current service but I think that if the people of Venice knew that there was a potential savings they would all be behind it."

A half a million dollars could go a long way for Venice taxpayers and for a department which had to recently cut nearly a million dollars to balance its annual budget.

Venice city leaders will listen to a presentation from their fire chief on January 22nd. The earliest the plan could be up and running would be October of 2014.