Bluffs’ Arbutine Leery Of County’s EMS Cutbacks; New Faces on Commission
By Leo Coughlin
BELLEAIR BLUFFS – Three brand new members of the City Commission along with re-elected Mayor Chris Arbutine were sworn in Monday night by Judge George Greer.
Hunt Brand, a former mayor, was the single holdover from the former commission except for Arbutine. Brand was selected as vice mayor at Monday’s meeting.
Arbutine, on the scene now as a commissioner and mayor for eight years, was confident about the city’s future despite the grim financial situation besetting individuals, businesses and governments.
His main concern, voiced before Monday night’s meeting, was the county’s cutbacks in EMS service.
“This is not good,” Arbutine said. He was particularly bothered that the county administrator and some city managers in the county had met and come up with a plan to deal with an $18 million shortfall.
Arbutine said he is troubled that this plan is due for a vote by the County Commission tomorrow. “I think there should be a delay on the vote until we can get a better look at the plan and study it,” he said.
The meeting on EMS involving County Administrator Bob Lasala and the city managers was covered in a detailed report by Carl Wagenfohr in the Gazette last week, March 12.
The EMS services include ambulances, Advanced Life Support first responders, and fire district paramedics who provide emergency care at the scene.
“The biggest problem – countywide – is financial,” Arbutine said. “Everyone is suffering, is aware of it, and is struggling to cope.”
On the EMS issue, he said he thought there should be input from citizens. “I think it is being rushed with a vote March 20,” he said.
“I think this is the first of many things the county is going to be cutting back on because of scarce funds,” Arbutine said. “But,” he continued, “I don’t think we can cut back on safety...”
Another of his concerns is the fire station in Belleair Bluffs.
“I had our public works director, Robert David, do a detailed examination of the building, and he determined that it was rodent infested. And that was three years ago,” Arbutine said.
He said the only real solution was a new building, but with the city strapped for funds and no financial daylight in view doing anything on a new building is a long way off, Arbutine indicated.
New commissioners sworn in Monday night were Joe Barkley for the remaining year of the two-year term Dave Shimkus resigned from to run against Arbutine in the mayor’s race, and Jack Nazario and Suzy Sofer for two-year terms. Incumbent Robert Russo, a longtime member of the commission was defeated.
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