Orange Park ambulance temporarily returns while fate is decided

Debate sparked when Clay County moved ambulance from Fire Station 19

CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – No decision was made during Tuesday's meeting of the Clay County Board of Commissioners about the fate of an ambulance previously located at Fire Station 19 in Orange Park.

The Board of Commissioners said it will review documents from the county attorney before making a decision.

Recently, the county voted to relocate the one ambulance servicing Orange Park from Fire Station 19, located at U.S Highway 17 and Kingsley Avenue, to a location about 4 miles away -- Fire Station 18 at Blanding Boulevard and Woodside Drive, just south of the Orange Park Mall. 

But while Clay County Fire Rescue awaits an official decision from the Board of Commissioners, the ambulance will be repositioned to Station 19. 

And while the repositioning of the ambulance was originally intended to provide immediate relief to the Town and free up their fire department employees of the obligation to staff the County’s Rescue Unit, tonight the BCC decided that it was of the Town and County’s best interest to reposition the unit back to Station 19 and continue to have it operate under the first response model throughout the entire county while the COPCN process is being vetted. The rescue unit is owned by the County and will continue to be staffed by the Town of Orange Park. -Kimberly Morgan, Clay County Board of County Comissioners

Dozens attended the meeting on Tuesday to speak out against the decision. 

Many who live in Orange Park said the ambulance is needed to help residents get emergency care as quickly and effectively as possible, and moving the ambulance from Fire Station 19 will slow response times when 911 is called.

"The long-term solution is for the county and the town to sit down, in a reasonable and professional fashion, and strike an agreement that would allow the town of Orange Park to have a certificate of need, to have its own ambulance," said John Capes, executive director of Moosehaven. "And then for the town of Orange Park to strike an agreement for service outside of the town, but within a reasonable perimeter, so that we don’t have the ambulance down in Keystone (Heights) when we need it in Orange Park."

During the meeting, commissioners also presented costs for an "average" rescue unit. 

According to the county, in the 2017-2018 fiscal year, the total cost of emergency medical services was about $14.93 million, and the total average cost per rescue unit was about $1.58 million.

The Board of Commissioners will likely take up the issue again at its next meeting.