Lake City ducks County
Commission EMS threat
Columbia County, FL (posted
Now that the truth be known, the
county may wish to change its logo to
read, "Providing Advanced Life Support to Columbia
County for all residents
For years Columbia County has threatened the City of
Lake City with the elimination of EMS service within the
city limits. Columbia County has bullied and cajoled
both the city and county residents with the threat of
the elimination of these emergency services. Many people
have believed that Columbia County will or has withdrawn
the requirement that the county EMS respond inside the
Earlier today, your reporter spoke with one county
resident about the EMS situation inside of Lake City.
His anger was palpable and his frustration evident and
reflective of many, when he said, "If the county EMS
doesn't respond when one of my relatives needs help in
the city and something terrible happens, I am bringing
my gun to a county commission meeting and it is not
going to be nice. It is time the county cut this crap
out, once and for all." (name withheld).
During the last city-county sit down the county was
still looking for money from the city when the City
Manager, Wendell Johnson told the County, "... the
County is a licensed emergency care provider and they
have an obligation, based on Wendell Johnson's opinion,
to all the citizens of Columbia County, which includes
the residents of Lake City, because we are county tax
payers as well."
It is not just Wendell Johnson's opinion.
It's not just Wendell Johnson's opinion, but first, a
look back into recent history at two important events in
the Lake City – Columbia County EMS saga.
On January 31, 2008, at a county workshop, County
Manager Dale Williams told the Board, "I think the Board
of County Commissioners is really going to have a
difficult decision. You are going to have to decide on
what area the Certificate of Need is going to cover...
if it covers the incorporated areas ... we know from an
AGO, an attorney general's opinion, that you are
expected to provide that service."
Also at that meeting Commissioner Ronald Williams
once again said, "We are constantly getting calls from
our constituents outside of the incorporated area – why
are we subsidizing rescue within the city of Lake City?"
The county has never documented one of these calls or
come up with one e-mail, letter, or anything else
substantiating the Commissioner's statement.
County Attorney Feagle disagreed.
A short while later, during the same meeting, County
Attorney, Marlin Feagle said that there is nothing to
prohibit the County from amending its COPCN (Certificate
of Public Convenience and Necessity – a requirement to
run EMS). Mr. Feagle said that if the COPCN does not
include the incorporated area, the County is not
required to service that area.
On February 7, 2008, the Columbia County Commission,
following the convenient interpretation of County
Attorney Feagle, moved unanimously to apply for a COPCN
that excluded the area of Lake City. Before the vote the
Board agreed to amend the COPCN if the city and the
county were able to resolve their differences.
For a year the county has been holding the
Sword of Damocles over the heads of City and County
residents alike, doing nothing to dispel the idea that
the County can withhold EMS service from the area of
Two weeks ago, on November 18th at the joint
city-county meeting, your reporter asked the County
Commission Chairman, Stephen Bailey, if the County was
going to "turn off the [EMS] spigot" and not pick people
up in Lake City unless they are from Columbia County,
out of state or another country?"
Chairman Bailey answered, "I think it would be a
jurisdiction issue... It is the jurisdiction of that
Your reporter (a county resident) followed up asking
that even though he pays taxes and his share goes into
the county coffer to pay for that EMS service, "If I
fall down in the wrong jurisdiction, you are not going
to come for me?"
Like deer caught in the headlights, neither Chairman
Bailey, nor anyone on the county side answered the
Now the reason is obvious.
Sometime after February 7, 2008, after the county
moved unanimously to apply for a COPCN that excluded the
area of Lake City from its EMS service area, they called
the state for approval before submitting all the
The state denied Columbia County the right to remove
or eliminate Lake City from its service area and the
county is still operating with the same COPCN that was
issued in 1998.
That appears not likely to change no matter what
Columbia County says.