The Broward Sheriff's Office firefighters are not happy with the sheriff's plans to cut his budget.
At tonight's Broward County budget hearing, the firefighter union is probably going to show up to share that discontent.
Sheriff Scott Israel is getting a larger budget than BSO had last year. But he said rising expenses in the area of employee pensions, health care (still under negotiation, now with Coventry) and employee pay raises mean he has to make some cuts.
One of his planned cuts, to save $1 million: Remove the ambulance from the fire station at mile marker 36 on Alligator Alley, aka Interstate 75 that crosses the Everglades to the west coast. That lonely stretch of road has been the scene of some horrific accidents.
The removal of the ambulance and its two firefighter-paramedics would leave just one fire truck manned by three firefighter-paramedics. It's capable of transporting one patient, union leader Walter Dix said.
The sheriff's new fire chief, Anthony Stravino, supports the reduction in the ambulance.
The firefighters and city of Weston don't.
Why does Weston care? Because city officials believe the ambulance they pay BSO for might be called in to handle Alligator Alley crashes. Weston's contract with BSO is under negotiation now.
Here's a letter Weston City Manager John Flint sent to county officials, in which he says it's the county's responsibility to provide emergency medical services to the unincorporated area out on Alligator Alley.
He said he "will not allow city funded personnel and equipment to be used'' as a replacement for Rescue 106.
Stay tuned. This fight will play out here in County Hall at the 5 p.m. budget hearing. Sheriff Scott Israel said he might attend.
Israel said he was told the stations runs about 300 calls a year. Dix said the number is more than double that - 700.
As an "Exhibit A,'' Dix sent county commissioners a newspaper article from 2003, when a horrible crash occurred on the Alley, killing three young people - an 11-year-old, a 14-year-old and a 20-year old. Then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist happened to be on the Alley and being a surgeon, he rendered aid.
The tragedy prompted the county to embed the ambulance at the fire station.
(Ten days later, an 18-year-old died in a crash on the Alley, near Weston. Ten days after that, six people were injured in a two car crash on the Alley, about as far west as you can go on the Alley and still be in Broward.)
Dix is hoping that bad memory from New Year's Day 2003 will prompt the commissioners to either cough up another $1 million for the sheriff, or demand that he keep the ambulance there.
"Having the five people out there saves lives,'' Dix said.
Israel said he's going to execute his budget cuts without layoffs, though he had threatened layoffs throughout the budget process.
The two employees who will be removed from the Alligator Alley station will fill vacant jobs, saving BSO money.
"Obviously I felt I gave the Broward County residents the answers. The answers were the budget I proposed,'' he said Monday night. "The County Commission ... decided not to give us the money. There's no good cuts to be made. If there was a good cut to be made, I wouldn't have had it in the budget to begin with.''