ST. Petersburg Times--North Pinellas

Fire truck, ambulance stuck in paperwork

By STEVE HUETTEL, Times Staff Writer
St. Petersburg Times
published April 21, 2003

More proof of the truism that no good deed goes unpunished:

Pinellas County has a long and happy relationship with the people of Isla Mujeres thanks to Regata Del Sol Al Sol, the annual sailboat race from St. Petersburg to the island off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Last fall, Pinellas officials asked Isla Mujeres representatives if there was anything they needed. Their answer: a fire truck. There isn't one on the island of more than 10,000 people.

Dwaine Booth, assistant director of the county's EMS and Fire administration, went to work and found a Bradenton company, 10-8 Fire Equipment, to donate a 1986 truck.

The county put in $5,000 worth of work to fix the brakes, electrical system, lights and siren. Booth got other fire departments to kick in 2,500 feet of hose, nozzles, fire coats and pants.

If that weren't enough, he convinced the county's contracted ambulance company, American Medical Response, to donate a 1996 ambulance. Operators of the Yucatan Express ferry from Tampa agreed to ship the equipment to a nearby port.

Pinellas County Commissioner Barbara Sheen Todd, Tampa port director George Williamson and other big wigs were set to announce the donation last week. A news release trumpeted: "Good News. Tampa Bay Reaches Out to Mexican Neighbor in Need."

The event was abruptly scrapped. Pinellas officials learned that paperwork to get the donations into Mexico wouldn't be processed for weeks. The fire truck and ambulance would be impounded if they arrived before that, Mexican officials warned.

Booth hopes everything will be straightened out in a month.