MYAKKA CITY -- Don’t go messing with Myakka City.
Especially over matters of life and death.
Manatee County Commissioners found themselves confronted with a packed house of riled up Myakka residents Thursday night opposing the cutting of the community’s only paramedic firefighter position.
“We’ve saved countless lives,” said Fire Chief Danny Cacchiotti, who led off the conversation during a commission workshop meeting in the new Myakka Community Center.
With Myakka many miles from the nearest hospital, Myakka needs the immediate care provided by a paramedic, and the position should not be cut because of the county’s budget problems.
Cacchiotti was followed by a steady stream of residents who voiced their concerns in two-minute sound bites for the better part of an hour.
First up was Mark Dawn, who said he has a serious heart condition and credited the paramedic for saving his life, and making it possible to be around for a son, a daughter and a wife who count on him.
“I love this fire department to death and everything it has done for me,” Dawn said.
Other residents said anything that people depend on for their lives is not an option, citing lifesaving care for everything from mauling by dogs, automobile crashes, to the kid who drives through barb wire, snake bites, strokes and diabetic episodes.
“This is a necessity, not a luxury,” said Jean Saxman, adding that there are many other places to look for budget cuts.
While commissioners were not allowed to take any official action Thursday, one by one they assured Myakka residents that their paramedic was safe.
“You can count on my support,” said Commissioner Donna Hayes.
Commissioner Larry Bustle of Palmetto said he doesn’t believe cutting the community’s only paramedic position stands a chance of being allowed to happen.
“You got riled up for something I don’t think will happen,” Bustle said.
At-large county commissioner Joe McClash called the Myakka paramedic position a “line in the sand that we can’t give up.”
Commissioner John Chappie added the understatement of the night: “I do believe we get the message.”
Manatee County has cut its budget 20 percent in the past two years, and has put everything on the table for re-examination for the upcoming budget year, said county Administrator Ed Hunzeker.
“It won’t be an easy summer for county commissioners,” Hunzeker said, adding that public safety has always been priority No. 1.
Almost in wonder at how fast the news of a possible paramedic budget cut got back to Myakka citizens, Hunzeker said he wondered if “the walls have ears.”