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Residents voice concerns about proposal to privatize Indiantown fire-rescue, EMS services

Some worry village won't improve situation
Posted at 8:12 PM, Apr 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-18 10:18:54-04

INDIANTOWN, Fla. — Residents of Indiantown had a chance to voice their concerns and further discuss a village proposal that would break ties with Martin County Fire Rescue.

The event took place Saturday afternoon at Post Family Park. It was put on by Martin County Commissioner Harold Jenkins and Councilwoman Susan Gibbs Thomas.

The idea of privatizing fire rescue and emergency services came from a paid consultant as the village is trying to find cost-saving options.

According to Village Manager Howard Brown, it costs the village about $5.5 million each year to use county fire rescue services. He believes a private company can do it for less money.

The proposal would have the village operate its own fire department with a mix of paid and volunteer firefighters and use a private ambulance provider to respond to medical emergencies with paramedics.

According to the proposal, the village would pay $6 million the first year and about $4.8 million every year after, saving the village about $1 million each year, which the village manger said could go towards repairs needed in the town.

The proposal is not sitting well among many residents.

"I'm definitely concerned about the proposal of shifting away from Martin County Fire Rescue," David Hafner said. "My wife and I have a business here. We live unincorporated Indiantown and so we're really concerned about the change of services. We don't know that's going to be an equitable service they're going be offering."

Howard Lyndon Brown still has his home after it was saved by Martin County Fire Rescue. He is one of the dozens of people who voiced their concerns about the village's proposal.

"Fire and rescue came to my house. I had a hazardous condition and they responded with so many minutes," Brown said. "If you look around, the ages of Indiantown people, who's going to volunteer? Who's going to buy the fire truck? Who is going to do all of that costs? I mean, last Sunday we didn't have water. There are pressing problems and now you are trying to reinvent the wheel by creating a fire station."

John Pasquali, a former volunteer firefighter, said it does not make sense for the village to have a volunteer fire-rescue department.

"My boss, he or she isn't going to say, 'Just don't do your job to run and put out a fire,'" he said. "You're going to pay people for the day and then at night, too. How are you gonna get all these people?"

A private contract would still need to be negotiated and a final decision has not been made whether to separate. Thomas said while it appears the proposal would save money, it may be best to stay the course.

"If you look at the things that are not included, which says right here, you have a limited backup resources, which would be an extra cost," she said. "Then inspection and 911 dispatch is not included, so that's an extra cost. I'm sure there are few other extra costs that we're not aware of. It's many moving parts."

There were talks about having this proposal on the November ballot, but it needs the support of three council members to make that happen. So far, it only has one.

The village's next council meeting is Thursday.