While The Villages Public Safety Department is moving forward with ambulance service for The Villages, Sumter County residents outside of the retirement community are still waiting.

County Administrator Bradley Arnold had said the public would get an update at last night’s meeting, but neither he nor the commissioners explained why the issue didn’t come up.

Amid lagging response times, Sumter County commissioners unanimously voted four months ago to end the ambulance contract with American Medical Response and move medical transport under VPSD and Sumter County Fire and Rescue starting Oct. 1, 2022.

But Arnold said last month that Sumter County Fire and Rescue, which services the area outside The Villages, may not be taking on that role after all.

Taxpayers have been agitating since the September vote for details on how ambulances will be ordered and paid for since commissioners did not set funds aside in the 2022 budget.

That budget includes 25% more in spending than the previous year.

Commissioner Doug Gilpin has suggested federal COVID funds be applied to the ambulance issue, as other counties have done.

But he was overruled by the newly elected majority of Craig Estep, Oren Miller and Gary Search who earmarked the money for sewer abs broadband projects.

Last night, Dave Fountaine, of the village of Hawkins wanted to know why.

“We just increased spending 25% last year in this county. I know $25 million we got from the federal rescue act. If you look on the National Association of Counties website, the fifth priority is sewer projects and broadband. And you’ve spent nothing towards medical emergency services or the other four priorities. I’d like to know why you just went to water and sewer and broadband. Many people here have been talking about ambulance services and medical response, and you guys have spent nothing to address. That’s a big need.”

Arnold explained the sewer projects in the south county,  but did not address ambulance question.

AMR’s contract expires on Sept. 30, and the turnaround time for an ambulance order is typically 10 to 12 months.

Meanwhile, The Village Center Community Development District board of supervisors will consider a contract to purchase 12 ambulances for VPSD at its meeting today.

Arnold told the Daily Sun on Dec. 15 that specifics on the county’s steps would be “presented during the next regular meeting with the Board.”

Neither he nor the commissioners said Tuesday when the ambulance issue will back on the agenda.

In other business, the commission:

• Unanimously approved entering into contract negotiations with Eisman & Russo for the construction of the extension of Buena Vista Boulevard to Meggison Road.

 • Unanimously approved contracts with CWR Contracting for road improvements to County Road 229 from State Road 44 to CR 462 and on CR 466 west of U.S. Highway 301.

• Unanimously approved new restrictions on internet cafes in the county in an attempt to curtail the high number of law enforcement calls at the businesses. 

Specialty Editor Keith Pearlman can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5347, or keithpearlman@thevillagesmedia.com.