Sumter makes AMR separation from 911 call center official

Starting October 1, Sumter County will take over 911 operations for ambulance and fire dispatching, replacing contracted service from American Medical Response, which agreed to terminate the deal.

Sumter County finalized a step to remove American Medical Response as the county’s 911 communication center staff this fall.

By a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Oren Miller opposing, board members agreed with County Administrator Bradley Arnold’s recommendation to end AMR’s communications and logistics support contract at the end of September. Commissioners previously had heard Arnold propose that future 911 staff become county-operated with county employees. AMR officials agreed with the move, Arnold told commissioners during Tuesday night’s meeting at Everglades Regional Recreation Complex. 

With the contract dissolving, the county will discontinue its annual payment to AMR, which was $1.26 million.

“There is a lot of material here. I think this needs to go to a (board of county commissioners) workshop,” Miller said in wanting to further discuss the arrangements.

But Miller had no support among colleagues to delay the vote and finalize the move away from contracted 911 dispatch provider.

In a separate arrangement, AMR is the county’s ambulance transport provider. Tuesday’s decision included some provisions not associated with 911, such as a stipulation that AMR will operate no more than 30% of basic life support ambulances compared to advanced life support vehicles with more advanced trained paramedics onboard.

The approved amendments also allow AMR an additional five-minute grace period in responding to emergency medical calls, if firefighters are already on scene providing stabilizing care. 

AMR’s ambulance response times triggered the commission to create a citizen ad hoc committee to look into what Chairman Garry Breeden described as a quest to find “the best solution for patient outcome.” They were given 10 options to consider from the county, five of which did not include The Villages Public Safety Department.

Last week, Chief Edmund Cain proposed to the committee that the Village Center Community Development District could break off from the county EMS system and create an independent special district to focus firefighting and EMS in The Villages, including areas outside of Sumter County. County Attorney Jennifer Rey said that citizen committee has inquired if they should look into that proposal and Rey was asking if she provide them guidance. 

“l think they need to stay the course,” Breeden said of focusing on patients, not who runs fire departments. 

Commissioners unanimously agreed with Breeden’s directive, saying a desire to create a special independent district should be brought directly to the commission, and not the citizen committee. 

Managing Editor Curt Hills can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5287, or curt.hills@thevillagesmedia.com.