County Commissioners Review Budget
By Josh Valone
Pinellas County Commissioners met Tuesday night at a public hearing to deliberate on the proposed budget for 2010-2011.
Much of the night's discussion centered around the decision on whether or not to cut funding for several EMS units. Rescue 19, Engine 16, Squad 26, and the Bayflite airlift program all had their turn on the chopping block, as representatives for each explained the possible consequences of a slower emergency response system.
Commissioners and members of the audience alike approached the topic of cuts to emergency services with trepidation, acknowledging the cost-saving benefits, but obviously concerned about the ramifications for public safety.
It was stressed that no final decision on the EMS proposal would be made that night, and indeed there was no vote on the matter, but it is perhaps the most contentious point of interest in the 2010-2011 budget and something commissioners will continue to grapple with in the coming weeks.
The other major topic of the evening pertained to the sale of alcoholic beverages. A proposed ordinance to amend sect 6-29 of the Pinellas County Code, which states that business must cease the sale of alcohol after 2:00 a.m., was debated vigorously by both sides of the argument. Local businessman implored commissioners to pass the amendment, citing the fact that it would give hope to local businesses hurting from the recession, while some area residents contended it had the potential to increase the number of DUI and public intoxication violations.
In the end, county commissioners voted to pass the amendment, which now sets the cutoff for alcohol sales at 3:00 a.m.
A final decision on the 2010-2011 budget may not come for another two months, and if Tuesday night was any indication it may come down to some very difficult decisions.
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