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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Lake City News

Government Subsidized Free Enterprise Is Alive and Well In Lake City/Columbia County Florida

LAKE CITY, FL – Last night in Lake City, Lifeguard Ambulance scored another home run for government subsidized free enterprise in Columbia County when the City Council voted unanimously to extend Lifeguard's rent free lease for another year. This lease extends the free rent given to Lifeguard last year to park their ambulance in the downtown Lake City firehouse.

Mayor Witt asked if Lifeguard keeps an ambulance in the firehouse all the time.

City Manager Wendell Johnson told the mayor that they keep an ambulance and two people there.

CM Johnson explained that he and Deputy City Manager, Grayson Cason, had considerable discussions with Lifeguard regarding the free rent issue.

The City Manager wants to be fair

CM Johnson said, "Grayson and I decided that we would give them one more year [free rent]... we just want to make sure we are fair to them."

CM Johnson explained that Lifeguard doesn't use a lot of electricity.

CM Johnson then told the Council, "They did indicate that there is going to be some other concessions that they'll be willing -- not concessions, but some other entitlements to the City we can sort out.

Last week at the County Commission: Two grand slams for two bucks

Last week at the County Commission, Lifeguard Ambulance scored two grand slam home runs when the County Commission voted to give them space in two County firehouses for the grand total of one dollar.

Longtime County Commissioner Ronald Williams told the Board that Lifeguard was given an unfair advantage over other ambulance companies in the County.

Commissioner Rusty DePratter said that Lifeguard had invested $25,000 in the County buildings that they use. He said he knew this, "Because I asked them."

Lifeguard Ambulance also leases the County ambulance fleet for one dollar a year. The County Commission also approved the renewal of that lease for another dollar.

Commissioner Bailey told the Board, "Most of the equipment they took over was in bad shape. It was worn out."

Commissioner Williams told the Board, "They [Lifeguard] are all that we could ask for and then some."

There are ex-union members, citizens and medical insiders that don't agree with that.

Comments  (to add a comment go here)

On June 20, 2012, citizen49a from Columbia County wrote:

Why did the county privatize provision of ambulance service again? Wasn't it supposed to be more economical, i.e. CHEAPER?  Hell, it's easy to do things more cheaply when you've got a sugar daddy stuffing dollars into your pocket for free.

So here we see how so-called "privatization" really works. The company that takes over the work formerly done by public employees gets subsidized by the taxpayers.

Call me cynical, but I think if somebody with time and resources really decided to get down and "follow the money" here, it would lead to some interesting people and places.

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On June 20, 2012, RB of Lake City wrote:

Are you kidding me? Government subsidized?

Lifeguard Ambulance stations ambulance crews at strategic locations around the county and city in order to better serve the citizens. Can you imagine the extra time involved responding to an emergency if all ambulances responded from one central location? When one of my loved ones have a medical emergency, I prefer to have an ambulance in close proximity.

If you needlessly charge them rent to park there, then they will ultimately pass that cost on to the public. Is there really a cost to allow them to use the facilities, other than a little electric?

As for the one dollar lease on the vehicles, it is a good deal for the county. I know for a fact that Lifeguard spent well over $100,000.00 the first year of the lease upgrading and improving the overall condition of the ambulances.

Prior to Lifeguard contracting to provide ambulance service in Columbia County, the county taxpayers subsidized Columbia County EMS in the amount of 1.2 million dollars a year (I believe that figure is correct). Folks, Lifeguard is a good deal for the citizens of Lake City and Columbia County.

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On June 21, 2012, citizen49a from Columbia County wrote:

Perhaps the previous commenter doesn't understand how one compares alternatives when evaluating different investments or business opportunities. One subtracts the costs of the alternatives from the respective revenues to generate the figures for comparison. Since governments generate no revenue, only costs are compared.

So, to compare the cost of maintaining an existing in-house capability to a privately operated replacement, the proper basis for comparison is to look at the cost of adopting the private enterprise replacement versus continuing with the existing cost of the in-house capability.

Now, if you're going to give some of your in-house infrastructure over to the new private operator, then to make an accurate comparison you need to deduct that cost from the existing costs of that in-house capability. These are fixed costs already paid for by the taxpayers. Failing to do this results in the private operator appearing cheaper on paper than it will be in practice - because when you get rid of your in house capability you're not going to eliminate all the costs it already incurs. You're not selling off the fixed plant and equipment to realize the taxpayer's previous investment of capital. You are giving it to the private outfit. It's a gift, or in polite government speak, a subsidy.

For instance if you've got a building on a piece of property with a saleable value, or a rental value, and a fleet of ambulances, and you don't turn around and rent or sell those to the new operator or someone else, then you're relieving the private enterprise of some of the costs it would otherwise have had to pay. That's called a subsidy.

For your edification, here's the definition of "subsidy" from Wikipedia: "A subsidy is an assistance paid to a business or economic sector. Most subsidies are made by the government to producers or distributed as subventions in an industry to prevent the decline of that industry (e.g., as a result of continuous unprofitable operations)..."

Now, if the county wants to subsidize a private ambulance service so they can do what the county formerly did that's fine. In fact, that's the Columbia County way - screw the taxpayer.

But unless the cost of the gift of paying for the building and the fleet for the new operator were accounted for properly in the original analysis - and there is no reason to believe that they were - don't try to tell me that the private outfit is doing it cheaper when taxpayer funded facilities and equipment are being essentially given to the private company.

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On June 22, 2012, RB of Lake City wrote:

Citizen 49a enjoys giving lip service about me when he/she obviously know nothing about me.

To state that I don't understand how to compare different investments or business opportunities is a huge assumption on his/her part. For his/her information, I have been a successful business owner in Columbia County since 1987 and employ several people, therefore I must know something about investments and business.

The bottom line is this. Columbia County paid out 1.2 million dollars annually above what the Columbia County EMS service billed and collected. Now we have a higher level of service for the citizens through privatization. We no longer pay out 1.2 million annually but we do give up use of an old fire station/ EMS building and parking spaces at 3 fire stations.

I don't care how much lip service you give it, that is still a good deal for the citizens of Columbia County.

 

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