ORANGE PARK – Officials with the Town of Orange Park are prepared for the worst yet hoping for the best after sitting in a County Commission Finance and Audit Committee meeting this week …
ORANGE PARK – Officials with the Town of Orange Park are prepared for the worst yet hoping for the best after sitting in a County Commission Finance and Audit Committee meeting this week surrounding the town’s Certificate of Need application to operate its own rescue unit.
Town Manager Sarah Campbell told Town Council members Dec. 4 that she and other staff heard Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock give an assessment of the CON and it doesn’t appear to play into the town’s favor.
“It doesn’t appear to me that it is a favorable analysis,” Campbell said. “There are three significant reasons why he does not recommend that the county grant a Certificate of Need to the town.”
According to Campbell, Mock doesn’t see a public need for the change in service level, any benefit to the Town of Orange Park and any financial benefit to either the county or town.
Campbell said she was given time to speak on behalf of Orange Park where she refuted the claims as best as she could. Campbell also said she was only given a copy of Mock’s five-page analysis of the rescue unit debacle just prior to attending the Finance and Audit Committee meeting.
She said Clay County Auditor Mike Price gave a lengthy description of the financial impact during the Finance and Audit Committee meeting as well. According to Campbell, Price’s evaluation, much like Mock’s, was not in favor of granting the Certificate of Need. She also said that there was a lot that could have been refuted, but she chose not to.
“Again, we disagree with so much of it, but our purpose at this point is not to start an argument,” Campbell said. “We’re trying to get to a resolution.”
Based on the Finance & Audit Committee’s recommendation, the county commission will hold a public hearing Dec. 11 to get feedback on the rescue unit Certificate of Need. The certificate is required to be approved by the county in order for the town to be allowed to take over 100 percent of the town’s emergency medical services.
Because of the current agreement between the Orange Park Fire Department and Clay County Fire and Rescue, the discussion was brought to the Finance and Audit Committee.
Despite the long process, which effectively began March 27 when the BCC voted to move its rescue unit from the Orange Park Fire Department. Under the longstanding agreement between the town and county, the county owns and funds the rescue unit that is operated by the town. In return, the town answers fire rescue calls for the county that are outside of the town limits. In recent years, the calls outside of the town limits have caused the town’s rescue services, officials claimed, to leave the town vulnerable in the event of a life-threatening major catastrophe. Meanwhile, county officials maintain that the town’s claim is unfounded because the county would shift other units into place to cover for the town if the town’s unit is called far away.
“I don’t think the outlook looks good for next Tuesday, so I just want to warn you in advance that we are facing an uphill battle,” Campbell said.
Campbell’s report left the Orange Park Town Council deflated but hopeful that Mayor Gary Meeks, Campbell and Town Attorney Sam Garrison will deliver a sound enough argument for the town at the BCC meeting.
They also asked that as many people from Orange Park show up to support the Certificate of Need.
“I’m hoping that good minds will prevail on that commission and that they will be reasonable about it, and sensible about it, but the way it looks today, I don’t know if it was pointing in that direction, but we’ll see,” Meeks said.