Budget could impact Fishhawk ambulance response time

Posted at 1:57 PM, Jul 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-01 13:57:19-04
Twelve years ago, Julie Stallings’ 2-year-old son fell into the family pool inside the Lithia community of Fishhawk.
“He was face down floating in the water,” Stallings said.
The mother, still emotional to this day about the accident, said her son wasn’t breathing so she called 911.
“I just remember being on the porch listening and waiting for the sound of the ambulance," Stallings said. "Finally, after a few minutes, you could hear it and I knew at that point everything was going to be OK.”
Stallings said rescuers’ quick response saved her son’s life. But neighbors say a new budget proposal could make response times longer.
The proposal has Hillsborough County Fire Rescue moving the area's ambulance from Station No. 2, which is about five minutes from the Fishhawk community, to Station no. 16 – eight miles and 15 minutes farther away.
“If response time is 10 more minutes, people are going to die. It’s scary,” Stallings said.
County officials said their cost cutting decision is based on the lack of call volume in the area.
“I find that hard to believe because you hear the sirens all the time,” Stallings said.
“You can’t say we don’t need these types of resources when it’s life and death,” Cynthia Hamilton said.
Hamilton has lived in Fishhawk for 13 years and strictly opposes the change. She said she and other neighbors weren't even notified about the proposal.
“I don’t know how they can make that decision without involving the community,” Hamilton said.
She added that saving money should never come before saving lives.
County Commissioner Stacy White, who represents the area, said in a statement, "With public safety as the number one priority of the County Commission, I am prepared to ask for a budget amendment to provide the Riverview station with the additional resources it needs without impacting the Lithia station. I am a fiscal conservative, but we simply can't take a chance when it comes to public safety."
The County Commission can't address the issue until it meets, which isn't due to happen again until July 20.
The administration’s decision is for this to take effect July 1, and that may very well happen. However, White said when the County Commission meets next on July 20 he will be seeking a resolution to restore service to the Lithia station if the staff hasn't changed its plans at that point.