Leaders of the Village of Indiantown are considering breaking their partnership with Martin County Fire Rescue and privatizing fire rescue and EMS services.
It’s an idea that is drawing controversy in both the village and by county leaders who are urging village leaders to reconsider.
They worry potential savings are being prioritized over safety.
“We would love to keep Martin County Fire Rescue but we shouldn’t do it at our own detriment,” said Village Manager Howard Brown.
Brown said over the last three years, Indiantown has paid an average of $5.5 million each year to the county for fire rescue services.
Brown believes the village and a private company can do it for less money.
A paid consultant suggested that the village operate its own fire department with a mix of paid and volunteer firefighters, then use a private ambulance provider to respond to medical emergencies with paramedics.
Brown stresses only firefighters would be volunteers.
“There will not be a volunteer EMS operation. The person that shows up to your house is just as qualified,” Brown claims.
“We’re looking for equity, we’re looking for fairness,” Brown said, wanting to renegotiate the village’s contract with the county at a cheaper rate.
County leaders said that is not an option, that a flat rate is charged through taxes county-wide.
Commissioner Harold Jenkins said he has been getting a lot of emails from concerned Indiantown residents, though the county has no say in what the village decides to do.
“Why would you take a very good, highly recognized fire rescue system out of service and replace it with something that’s going to cost you as much?” Jenkins said.
Jenkins believes any possible savings will be lost through the costs of trying to operate independently of the county.
The village would pay $6 million the first year, and roughly $4.8 million every year after. Brown said there is a potential to save the village $1 million each year, which he said could be used for ongoing street repairs, park enhancements, recreational fields, or other village improvements.
Jenkins said the village must look at the expense of building a new firehouse, and the cost of mutual aid contracts with the county to be able to utilize services like dive teams and hazmat teams which Indiantown would no longer have.
Jenkins also said there is the possibility home insurance rates could increase to offset the savings for homeowners.
“By the time you do that, all those expenses, it’s the same or more,” Jenkins said.
Brown does not believe insurance rates would be impacted.
Jenkins fears the quality of response will be reduced.
“There’s no way this could possibly be at the same level they’re receiving now,” Jenkins said.
Speaking about jeopardizing safety, “We would not consider anything that would result in that,” Brown said.
Commissioner Jenkins and Village Councilwoman Susan Gibbs Thomas are hosting an informal meeting Saturday, April 17 at 5 at Post Family Park to listen to residents and discuss facts related to fire rescue service in Indiantown.