Venice Mayor questions County contract

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Venice's Mayor says the city might not be getting a fair deal with Sarasota County when it comes to emergency services. Mayor John Holic is calling for a full review of the interlocal agreement between the city and county. He wants to know why the city isn't getting some of the millions of dollars coming in from ambulatory care despite sending it's rescuers to the scene.

The city of Venice operates and staffs three fire stations and the fire trucks. Sarasota County operating the ambulances and paramedics there. Unlike the fire the ambulance side bills those they serve. "None of the revenue is coming to the city. I don't think that is fair."

Holic says through his research he's concluded the county billed out more than $2.3 million this past year. The city doesn't receive a dime despite the fact the department is required by the county to go with the ambulance on certain types of calls. An estimated 80% of the time. "Reading over this interlocal agreement what I saw was a source of revenue that we are not taking advantage of. In fact my feeling is the county is taking advantage of us."

The Mayor says the city could be losing out on as much a million a year. On top of it all Venice residents are taxed by the county for their services. Nearly $2 million a year. The Mayor says he has the support from his department. "This is something they have seen for years but it is something nobody would listen to." Especially considering the department faced a million in cuts this past budget year. Positions and overtime were done away with as well as a specialized Hazmat team.

Holic says the city could opt out of the agreement all together. "One remedy would be consulting with the county and coming up with a revised agreement. The second remedy if that didn't work would be to terminate the interlocal agreement."

Their current agreement was signed in 2005 and runs until 2024. However, the Mayor says they could give a one year notice they want it terminated. It's unclear how that would work. Because of the city's size the county has the authority over how EMS services are operated. "I may be off based on some of this. I just don't know because I am not getting more information."

Holic says they need more info but council wont stop there. Now looking to go over the other 30 or so similar agreements between the two local governments. Things like parks, police, and utilities. "In the past these have been pretty well rubber stamped for renewal. That is not going to happen anymore. We want to make sure that the interlocal agreements are current and still meaningful and we are getting our fair share."

Sarasota County representatives say they are aware of the concerns and are working to help the city get a full picture of why the current agreement is set up the way it is. So far no public discussions on the matter have taken place. The two local governments are set to sit down in a joint meeting in October.