Private drivers carrying paying passengers and helicopters that carry patients stand among issues going to Monroe County commissioners at their first meeting of 2017.
County Administrator Roman Gastesi is expected to update commissioners, meeting next Wednesday at the Marathon Government Center, on the state of air-ambulance services in the Florida Keys.
LifeNet, a private service working with Lower Keys Medical Center, may leave the Keys this spring over officials’ concerns that the company’s per-flight costs — often cited at $50,000 to $60,000 for emergency aerial transport to mainland hospitals — can be financially devastating to local residents.
The county-operated Trauma Star helicopter ambulance based in Marathon bills Monroe County residents who have insurance but does not seek to collect directly from in-county patients.
If LifeNet departs, the county may seek to add a third helicopter ambulance to its Trauma Star operation. A newly acquired 2002 helicopter is the primary Trauma Star aircraft. A 1982 helicopter is being used as a reserve.
“We have talked about a third helicopter for the Lower Keys, and we have a plan in place,” said Sheriff Rick Ramsay. “If asked by the County Commission, we can execute the plan.”
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office jointly operates Trauma Star with Monroe County Fire Rescue.
County Attorney Bob Shillinger will ask commissioners if they want to pursue any local regulations on “transportation network companies” like Uber and Lyft that dispatch private drivers. The Florida Legislature likely will consider the Uber issue in its spring lawmaking session and might adopt rules banning local governments from pursuing additional regulations not already in place.
Shillinger is working with the county tax collector to determine how to assess local drivers as independent business entities.
Commissioners also will hear a presentation on the expected costs of improving low-lying streets that have become more prone to flooding, and consider a recommendation to create a monitoring program to assess the water quality in canal-restoration projects funded by the county.