The Town of Orange Park is fighting to keep its only ambulance in Orange Park.
As Clay County has grown, the county-operated ambulance has been making more and more trips out of town, sometimes 10 miles away, according to town officials.
The worry is the ambulance could be too far away to help people in Orange Park in an emergency.
Within the first quarter of this year, the ambulance responded to calls 908 times. The concern is that more than half of those calls, over 464 to be exact, have gone outside the town of roughly 9,000 people.
Sometimes, it has gone way outside. Not just to Fleming Island, but as far away as Green Cove Springs and Middleburg.
"The county's growing rapidly and we're being asked to respond to more and more areas that are well outside our town limits," Orange Park Town Manager Jim Hanson said.
As Hanson notes, that service doesn't come free.
He said the Orange Park Fire Department is a $2 million per year operation. According to the numbers, that would mean more than $1 million is being spent outside the town.
"The residents of Orange Park are paying for a pretty high level of police and fire service, and they expect to get it," Hanson said.
Up until ten years ago, the city was reimbursed more than $1.2 million per year to cover expenses including ambulance costs, but the recession changed all that, Hanson said.
Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock contends the ambulance is not a town of Orange Park asset, so it doesn't have to stay there. The county's goal is to send the closest available unit to a scene, sometimes that unit is Orange Park's.
Hanson wants two things: A reigned-in service territory for their sole ambulance and either a cut of the money the ambulance rakes in, a number somewhere in the several hundreds of thousands a year, or a chance to provide their own ambulance, which they would bill themselves.
"I think what we're looking for is a fair solution between two organizations. The county's doing their job, they're good people, they're looking out for the entire county. We have to look out for the residents of Orange Park and we don't feel like we're getting a fair deal," Hanson said.
The Vice Mayor, Gary Meeks, will be leading discussions with the county to see what can be done to keep the ambulance in town. Those discussions could begin next month and the whole process could take several months, according to Hanson.
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