VENICE (WWSB) - A big change in emergency services is coming to the City of Venice. After months of debate, city leaders today voted on the future of life-and-death calls on the island.
For two decades now, the Venice Fire Department and the Sarasota County Fire Department have shared responsibility in this area, but starting October of 2020, Sarasota County is stepping aside, and the Venice Fire Department will take all EMS calls.
“When you’re on the other end and you’re waiting for the EMS or the fire department to come, every second, every minute counts,” Venice Fire Chief Shawn Carvey explained.
A survey found that for 66 percent of emergency medical calls in Venice, it’s the Venice Fire Department that arrives first - ahead of Sarasota County. That’s why the local fire department says it is confident this was the right choice.
“Local control. We feel that because of the demographics of our city which is 67-75 years old, and our response time, and our familiarity with the area and our firefighters, we’ll be able to control the services in terms of where they are, where they are training and this is a huge benefit,” Fire Chief Carvey said.
Venice Fire and Sarasota County will continue to share the duties of fighting fires in Venice. Fire officials say that for the ambulance money the city pays the county, it could hire another 25 first responders and add three ambulances.
“We’ll start to budget for additional personnel and coordinator positions and equipment now,” Fire Chief Carvey tells us.
However, some residents that were at today’s meeting tell us they think the city made this decision too quickly.
“I think what we’re missing and where the council has not done their duty is that we don’t know what the cost of divorcing the county, and it has to be a big number. I think they should’ve postponed this vote until they had that information," John Henry, a resident in Venice, said.
Venice City Council will now be giving the county officials notice that it’s terminating the agreement for EMS services effective October 1, 2020.