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Sumter County tackles ambulance service, impact fee reversal


Sumter County has had complaints this year about ambulance delays, some possibly tied to pandemic-related wait times at the hospital in The Villages.

And now the county is questioning whether to renew its ambulance service contract next year with AMR.

On Tuesday, Sumter County commissioners picked an ad hoc committee of five volunteers steeped in EMS and hospital management.

Commission Chairman Garry Breeden says they’re looking for long-term solutions that improve patient care.

“We gave them 10 options to look at,” he said after the commission meeting. “They may come up with something totally different, which is fine. We got a better idea? Go for it.”

They’ll make a recommendation in September.

But already two committee members have made it clear they think that the county and Villages fire departments should run the ambulances.

Patients and their insurance, including Medicare, cover most of the costs for AMR. Sumter County contributes $1.2 million a year.

Building a local ambulance service could cost a lot more.

The county is aiming for a decision in January. AMR’s contract ends in October of next year.

 

What next for impact fees in Sumter County?

Sumter County commissioners decided earlier this year that builders, like The Villages, should pay more to cover the cost of roads that come with development.

But now a bill signed by the governor on Friday has essentially revoked the county’s 75% increase in impact fees.

The new law — co-sponsored by local State Rep. Brett Hage —  limits impact fee increases to 50% phased in over four years. That also applies to new fees from earlier this year.

Anything more than that — like a 75% increase in one year — requires special conditions including a super-majority vote.

Commissioner Oren Miller had pushed for the higher fees.

“The problem now is, for the impact fees it takes a four-one vote,” Miller said. “And I believe Sumter County’s got two commissioners who are not willing to do anything.”

They have heard from many on both sides: homeowners outraged at higher property taxes going to new roads and contractors and others who see a cost adding to the price of a home.

Commissioners are set to revisit the issue at a meeting later this month.


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Joe Byrnes

About Joe Byrnes

Reporter

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.

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