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Protecting turf, at our expense

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A South Marion Citizen editorial

It was hardly more than a footnote on last week’s County Commission agenda, but the county accepted a letter from the city of Ocala pulling out of the negotiated agreement to combine emergency dispatch services. The county had little choice.
That’s too bad. It’s too bad because the people in the city will be the ones who suffer. Since they pay county taxes, it’s their taxes that help fund Marion County Fire Rescue, but they also have to pay taxes to support Ocala Fire Rescue. Combining the dispatch services would not only have made the operation more efficient, it would have saved the taxpayers of the city about half a million dollars.
One of the comments at a recent City Council meeting concerned the fact that a county crew was dispatched to a city fire recently, as was a city crew. Problem was, the county crew got there first. Shouldn’t that be an argument, not only for combining dispatch services to get a response the fastest possible way, but even possibly for merging the two departments into one unit.
When you sit back and think of it, there’s a definite disadvantage to having two separate fire rescue units operating in the same area, with calls determined by a city-county dividing line that in many cases is so imaginary and convoluted that people don’t know where it is. Someone could be dying while someone is trying to figure out which agency should answer the call.
This is not a knock on the individuals who serve as firefighters and medical personnel on these emergency runs. When they get there, they’re going to take care of you no matter where you are located. It’s getting them there through a duplicative dispatch system that is the problem.
The city of Ocala has successfully protected its own little corner of the world … but at the expense of its citizens’ safety and pocketbooks. The last time we looked, Ocala was a part of Marion County. Maybe its City Council ought to start acting that way.