Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County 5 Approve Another Sweetheart Deal for Lifeguard Ambulance Without Speaking One Word

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night Columbia County's infamous County 5, the County Commission that decides just about everything in the back room, didn't disappoint as without one word of discussion they breezed through another consent agenda in record time. The 5 continued to side step meaningful countywide salary review by spending $179,000 in unbudgeted funds for a $350 bonus for each County employee. But the real action was another slick, sweetheart, unspoken deal between The 5 and Lifeguard Ambulance.

Buried in the consent agenda was an innocuous looking item: Safety Manager Declaration of EMS Surplus Property and Requesting Authorization to Sale [sell] Surplus Property.

The decision was already made

What the public would not have known unless they drilled through the 216 page consent agenda was that The 5 had already decided to sell all of the so-called surplus equipment to their friends at Lifeguard, equipment that Lifeguard had been using for a dollar a year.

 In 2011, during the reign of terror, the County 5 gave County run EMS the boot. Many folks thought The 5's real motivation was union busting. After they got rid of the County run EMS department, The 5 agreed to subsidize Lifeguard Ambulance, a private for-profit company, by leasing them the fleet of county ambulances for a dollar a year, which included all the equipment inside the ambulances. Additionally, for another dollar, The 5 gave them 24/7 room in three county firehouses for the leased ambulance fleet and the Lifeguard crews.

Included in the agenda packet were various pages purporting to give real valuations of the equipment that Lifeguard had been using since 2011. All the equipment listed in the various schedules was paid for with money that came out of the pockets of Columbia County citizens.

Asst. Fire Chief Checked the Prices

Assistant Fire Chief Jeffrey Crawford, in a memo dated September 25th to the County's Safety Division Manager, David Kraus, said he checked the prices for the equipment and recommended excepting a bulk offer from Lifeguard.

Assistant Chief Crawford wrote that he had checked online for prices of the equipment or comparable models and that Lifeguard's prices were fair.

Lifeguard was offering $25 each for six Ferno stretchers. The purchase price in 1985 was claimed to be $3,760. Asst. Chief Crawford did not provide the replacement value. At 2 AM this morning a vendor on eBay was offering a reconditioned Ferno stretcher for $995.

Lifeguard had offered $190 each for six Motorola HT 1250 radios. Assist. Chief Crawford researched the prices and thought the $190 Lifeguard offer was fair.

The first eBay listing early this morning for Motorola HT 1250 radios was $299 each.

The $14,000 defibrillators were going to Lifeguard for $3,500. Asst. Chief Crawford did not include the Mfg. part number so it was impossible to independently check those prices.

The 4 County ambulances in which Lifeguard clocked over a quarter million miles are being sold for $4,500 each.

No mention was made, nor did any of The 5 ask for the value of the ambulances when Lifeguard began using them for a dollar.

Lifeguard also wanted to purchase two other ambulances, but the County couldn't figure out a way to value those for under $5000 each, so they will be put out to bid.

For some unexplained reason, the County could not come up with a purchase price on one of the Ambulances and the County listed a "?" as its purchase price.

County Manager Dale Williams sidesteps

When the Observer asked for an explanation of the consent agenda item, County Manager Dale Williams side stepped giving no further explanation than what was written on the consent agenda and mentioning "two vehicles." Neither the words ambulance, nor Lifeguard passed his lips and none of The 5 volunteered the information.

Later on in the evening, also without any comment from The 5, after leasing space in the Ft. White fire station to Lifeguard for almost three years for two dollars, they agreed to lease the same space for $170 a month. This includes living quarters for two men and inside parking for the ambulance 24/7.

What neither The 5 or the County Manager mentioned was that Lifeguard's use of the Ft. White fire house caused the County to have to build another fire station so that two additional men could be housed.


For Florida's the infamous Columbia County 5, it was business as usual.

The Columbia County 5 from left to right: Commissioners Ronald Williams; Rusty DePratter; Bucky Nash; Stephen Bailey; Scarlet Frisina

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