Hundreds of people attended an event at a fire station in The Villages on the eve of an ambulance committee meeting that could prove pivotal to the future of The Villages Public Safety Department.
The open house was hosted at Station 44 on Morse Boulevard near the Sarasota Practice Facility.
More than 400 Villagers, some with their visiting grandchildren tagging along, listened to fire department staffers explain the potential consequences of Sumter County Administrator Bradley Arnold’s proposal to merge The Villages Public Safety Department with Sumter County Fire Rescue. Should The Villages department be eliminated, several popular programs would likely be gone, including the smoke detector program and the neighborhood AED program. Staff also indicated that if the department is abolished the new county-wide department might well close some of the stations located in The Villages which would result in slower response times and fewer firefighters on each shift.
Staff also explained that those Sumter County residents who live outside of The Villages pay higher homeowners insurance than Villagers because The Villages Public Safety Department has a higher rating from the insurance companies.
Bill Delora, a retired Lynn, Mass. fireman and his wife Carol brought their grandchildren, Madison and Matthew Burt, to the open house. The Village of Summerhill residents laughed as their grandson Matthew, high-fived Sparky, the Fire and Rescue mascot. They showed up to provide a little moral support to The Villages firefighters.
The Sumter County ad hoc ambulance committee will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 4 at the Wildwood Community Center. The meeting is open to the public.