Pinellas Suncoast fire district commission settles lawsuit against Pinellas County
SEMINOLE — Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District commissioners on Tuesday unanimously approved settling its 2016 lawsuit against Pinellas County over millions of dollars of emergency medical services funding.
The district didn’t get the $5.2 million officials felt they were owed after a series of funding cuts over several years. Instead, the agreement both sides hammered out in mediation will fund new positions for the district.
The settlement says the county must pay for at least two paramedic positions each year and calls for the county to consider dedicating future Penny for Pinellas funds to pay for the fire district's capital and equipment projects, such as a new fire station and a new ladder truck should voters renew the one-cent sales tax in November. The deal would also provide about $1.8 million next fiscal year to fully fund the district, meaning all three fire stations will have its emergency medical services covered by Pinellas County.
However the total value of the settlement, compared to the $5.2 million the fire district originally wanted, was not known.
The settlement still has to be approved by the Pinellas County Commission before it’s finalized. County officials who were observing Tuesday's meeting declined to comment because the dispute is still considered under litigation.
The outcome didn’t send millions immediately flowing into district coffers and the suit racked up about $86,000 in legal fees. But some fire district officials lauded it as a victory that will help stabilize its finances and showed the county that they're serious about getting what they believe is their fair share of funding.
“It’s unfortunate the money had to be spent,” said Fire Commission Chair Joe Bruni of the legal costs, adding: “Without that in place, I’m not sure the county would have paid much attention.”
But not all the commission members were satisfied with the outcome. Commissioner Lawrence Schear read aloud specific sections of the agreement he took issue with and after the vote said he still feels the fire district deserves millions in lost revenue.
However, in the end, he voted to approve the agreement, saying it was "the best of a bad situation."
Contact Kathryn Varn at (727) 893-8913 or email@example.com. Follow @kathrynvarn.