At the polls on Tuesday, Marco Islanders voted “no” on a referendum for local control of the city’s ambulance service.
The present system does not allow the city’s fire-rescue personnel to transport patients to the hospital, requiring them to wait until a Collier County ambulance arrives at the scene. Additionally, despite possessing the same credentials and qualifications, Marco Island EMS is not permitted to administer many life-saving medications that the county EMS may administer to patients.
Currently there is one full-time ambulance provided to the City of Marco Island by Collier County. When the population triples during Marco’s busy season, the county provides an additional ambulance.
Marco Island had received the county’s approval in June for a COPCN (Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity), the first step towards starting its own ambulance service. But that approval was conditioned on the referendum’s success at the polls (as well as Marco agreeing to receive no reimbursement for property taxes paid towards the county’s EMS).
The referendum had asked voters if they wanted to replace the Collier County EMS with a city-run ambulance service. It stated that a tax increase of $100 per $500,000 of assessed property value would be used to pay for the additional expense.
Of the 5,590 total voters participating, 53.94% (3,015 votes) said “no” to a city-run ambulance service, and 46.06% (2,575 votes) said “yes.”
Opponents, who were vocal through letters to the editor, a Facebook page (VOTE NO for a city owned Marco Island Ambulance Service), and unsolicited emails to registered voters, did not trust the City of Marco Island to run an ambulance service. This distrust was predicated on the perceived inability of the current city council to function properly. Other voters were concerned about any potential future tax increase.
Proponents believed a city-run ambulance service would provide local control and enhance the island’s existing emergency medical service. Our City Our Ambulance (OCOA) members campaigned with public meetings, letters and commentaries, yard signs, a website and Facebook page. Following the voting results, OCOA Chairman Dr. Jerry Swiacki said, “We will live by what the citizens of Marco Island have decided and move forward.” He added that there were “no regrets” with the “valiant effort given by the OCOA committee” and the integrity of the campaign.
Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy provided the following statement:
As the Fire Rescue Chief, I believe placing this vote in the hands of the citizens was in the best interest of our community. I would like to thank the many citizens taking the time learning the facts of the emergency medical service issue. Locally controlled service gives a voice to provide a more responsive system to our community while better utilizing our resources and better cost transparency.
It was unfortunate other city issues negatively impacted this vote. The fact the Florida Legislature supported the issue demonstrates the problems Marco and other communities have experienced but now sets a precedent to open doors for locally controlled EMS in the State.