VIEWPOINT: Looking forward to work

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 The most fertile source of insight is hindsight and you never know how far you’ve come until you look back on where you’ve been. During the last few years I’ve had numerous opportunities to look back over my progress, sometimes it’s with humor, sometimes it’s with pride and always with amazement over how I thought issues would turn out and how things really unfolded. 

When I began my new position I quickly put together a list of projects I wanted to accomplish, in whatever time I would have with Levy County. I spent countless hours researching and lobbying for change in the way many things had “historically” been done. Accomplishing change has been a very steep uphill battle but I can now say that many of the issues on my list, have been, or are in the process of being, implemented. Overcoming the “historical” mindset has been my biggest challenge. I find change refreshing and exciting, but I’m a minority in that respect, because most people do not embrace it.

I have numerous projects which I hope to accomplish in the coming days, in my third year as your County Commissioner. One has been ongoing since the beginning of my term but is finally getting some traction. I’ve been trying to bring Levy County’s communications into the 21st century, in an attempt to make the experience for Levy County residents and employees more user friendly, and at the same time saving money. 

We need to identify and eliminate our redundant and unused phone lines and bundle only what we need, along with our internet infrastructure, into a highly efficient, cost effective system. This has the potential to save us money and at the same time provide much more up to date communications, both wired and wireless. Currently, we’re having an analysis done on our phone system and from that we will be able to move forward with reorganization.

Another project I’m beginning to look at is county purchasing. Currently, each department orders from whomever they choose. One may order paper from Office Max, another from Office Depot and another from a local vendor. We need to develop a uniform purchasing policy to negotiate the best price from our suppliers. In this process I would like to identify products being used, or that could be used, that are made in America and ask that our county as a whole do their best to purchase these products whenever possible. All government offices should be doing just that. Imagine the impact of that buying power on American suppliers, if all federal, state and local governments had a policy to purchase American-made supplies.

Probably the most important thing I hope to accomplish this next year is to educate the public about ambulance “frequent flyers” and when to call an ambulance. “Frequent flyer” is a term used to describe people who abuse emergency services. As a point of reference, you should know that we only have five operating ambulances in Levy County and they drive long distances to provide care and then transport to hospitals. This puts a huge strain on our system. Our fire departments have first responders who also answer medical calls. Currently, fire department calls are about 85 percent medical vs. fire, and both the fire department and ambulance calls are approximately 85 percent non-emergency. Many people use these services as their first line of medical care rather than going to a doctor and some are even using our ambulances as a taxi service. Someone who has a rash or a cold should be seeking medical help elsewhere. It’s also not uncommon for people to call an ambulance and pretend to have a medical problem, such as chest pains, so they will be transported to the hospital. They then leave the emergency room and go shopping, to other non-medical appointments or for a drink at a local bar. Some people mistakenly think that if an ambulance takes them to the hospital it puts them at the front of the line for care. This is not true. The speed of the medical treatment is based on how critical the emergency is. 

For liability reasons, EMS and fire must answer every call, even if they know the person on the other end of the line is abusing the system. This could leave one of us, truly in need of medical attention, to wait, while unnecessary treatment is being administered.  If we can educate people about when to call, and stop the most egregious abusers of the system, we’ll be able to assure the taxpayers of Levy County that if you truly need help we’ll be there for you. This would not only assure the availability of medical treatment but would significantly lower the cost of doing business and allow us to do more with our resources. 

EMS will be handing out material in their new campaign to educate the residents of Levy County and I hope that each of you will spread the word that this is a huge, very costly and possibly life threatening problem for all of us.

I know that when I look back over the work I’ve done for Levy County I will be satisfied that I did my best to represent my constituents with integrity and hard work and I’ll be satisfied that I was instrumental in changing things for the better. 

Right now I’m not looking back, but looking forward in my life, and in doing so and after a great deal of thought, I’m announcing that I will not be seeking reelection in 2012. I’m opening the door of opportunity and stepping through into the unknown. Wondering what waits on the other side is an exciting prospect for me.

It’s time for me to move on to this new chapter in my life, so I can concentrate on family, personal projects and consider other options. 

Being your County Commissioner has been very rewarding and I hope to always be involved, in some way, in making Levy County a better place. I thank everyone for the support and kindness that they have shown me during my term. It has been, and will continue to be, an honor to serve the residents of Levy County, for the duration of my term of office.

Marsha Drew

Commissioner, District 3