County unlikely to privatize EMS, libraries

Source: Gary Pinnell, Highlands Today, August 14, 2016

A push to transfer 10 county departments to private employers began in 2013 when Positive Mobility’s Ron Layne suggested ambulances for hire should transport non-emergency patients. Tea party members stood in front of the county commission and lobbied for months for Layne’s plan. … But the emergency part of the ambulance service is unlikely to be privatized, three commissioners said Tuesday. … The commissioners went a lot farther down the road to privatizing county services in a 2014 goal-setting workshop: recycling, landfill, libraries, Healthy Families, real estate surveying, fleet maintenance, asphalt production and road paving. Bids were accepted for janitorial services for county offices, but the issue was always a non-starter with constitutional officers. … Elwell pointed out in November that the county privatized tourism by replacing tourism director John Scherlacher with a contract with Gray Dog Communications. Brooks and Elwell said privatizing libraries was a non-starter. … The county continues to look at farming out Healthy Families, a home visitation program for expectant parents and parents of newborns. The program is designed to educate parents and improve childhood outcomes. An Aug. 2 note from County Administrator June Fisher to commissioners said, “holding periodic meetings with interested parties and non-profits to continue the discussion of partnership opportunities.” Commissioners un-privatized the county attorney’s office. Last year, Ross Macbeth was in private practice and billed the county an average of $246,000 per year. …

Related:

One item completed on county privatization list
Source: Gary Pinnell, Highlands Today, October 28, 2015

Nineteen months after commissioners agreed to privatize 10 Highlands County functions, they’re still months away from completing the second item. The top-ten list that came out of the March 2, 2014 goal-setting workshop included transferring EMS to private ambulance companies, recycling, legal services, fleet maintenance, real estate surveying, Healthy Families and janitorial. Contracting with a company to clean county buildings is now off the table. … Handley doesn’t think privatizing the landfill will happen, though. … In a report to commissioners last week, County Administrator June Fisher said EMS revenues and expenditures have been reviewed. “We’re still waiting on a needs assessment,” Elwell said. The final report will disclose options for EMS and the volunteer fire departments to combine. “Maybe we could move toward fire-rescue, and have one crew instead of two, with cross-trained personnel.” … “I don’t think EMS will be privatized,” Richie said. … Commissioners un-privatized the county attorney. Ross Macbeth was a part-timer who ran a private practice and contracted with the county. But during one three-year period, he billed $1 million, and the commissioners saw a cost-saving opportunity. As of Oct. 1, Macbeth has moved into a county office, and hired a secretary and assistant attorney, both to be paid by the county. … County staff visited a county library in Sumter County that had been privatized. “The staff met them, and they said they would not recommend it. It’s a different situation, and the people they met with didn’t recommend it.”