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Chiefland continues
progress toward ALS

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(from left) Chiefland City Manager Mary Ellzey, City Attorney Norm Fugate, City Commissioner Teresa Barron, City Commissioner Rollin Hudson, Mayor Teal Pomeroy, Vice Mayor Betty Walker and City Commissioner Chris Jones prepare for the regular meeting before the workshop with the County Commission

Story and Photos

By Jeff M. Hardison © April 14, 2015 @ 9:07 p.m.
     CHIEFLAND – A workshop on Monday night (April 13) reflected that the Levy County Commission and Chiefland City Commission are working together to potentially allow the paramedics with Chiefland Fire Rescue (CFR) to apply Advanced Life Support (ALS) to keep people alive and reduce injuries.

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     This idea began with Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris seeing paramedics on the CFR not being able to apply their complete level of training to save lives as they waited for ambulances which are provided by the Levy County Department of Public Safety (LCDPS).

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(from left) County Attorney Anne Brown, County Commissioner Rock Meeks, County Commission Vice Chairman Danny Stevens, County Commission Chairman John Meeks, County Commissioner Lilly Rooks, County Commissioner Mikey Joyner and County Coordinator Freddie Moody listen as the workshop begins.

     The state of Florida has laws governing the mandatory minimum level of medical care that is allowed to be given by professionals and volunteers. Combined with the bureaucratic issues when laws are imposed, there is the hurdle of how much money is required in saving lives before this idea becomes a reality. Funding personnel, equipment and drugs are part of the equation that keeps levels of service at different strata in urban areas versus rural areas of Florida.
     The joint meeting between the city and the county started with an attempt to have everyone understand what staff from Government Services Group (GSG) and the law firm of Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson (NGN) were tasked with doing when GSG researcher Jeff Rackley created a report about the two separate special assessments imposed by the Levy County Commission for fire protection and for Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Patch Contributor Introduced
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Chiefland Fire Chief James Harris (right) introduced Joel Woods to the City Commission on Monday night, because Woods donated a complete set of fire department patches, one from each of the 50 states in the United States of America, for a display that is in the Chiefland Fire Station. He has been to thousands of fire stations throughout the world, and he said he believes Chiefland Fire Rescue’s station and its firefighters is within the top 1o in the world, Woods said. Woods said the people of the Chiefland area must appreciate the gem of a fire department they have.

     The discussion between Rackley, members of the City Commission, members of the County Commission, members of the CFR, the general public and NGN attorney Heather Encinosa ultimately resulted in the city agreeing to determine if it can find the money it needs to attain the goal of saving more lives in Zone 7 (the part of Levy County that includes the city of Chiefland and its surrounding area) of the LCDPS zones.
     Held at the Tommy Usher Community Center, 506 S.W. Fourth Ave. (State Road 345), in Chiefland, the meeting was relatively calm, and both sets of elected officials displayed action and words to indicate that everyone is working to best serve all of the people who elected them as their representatives in those two sets of government entities.
     Chiefland Mayor Teal Pomeroy opened the workshop by noting the purpose was to discuss the NGN report. The report looked at CFR adapting to provide ALS non-transport services, and the impact that may have on the current funding source for EMS in Levy County.
THE REPORT
     Rackley said his company was hired by the County Commission to conduct research to determine if the proposal would endanger the method of collecting fees from Levy County taxpayers for fire or EMS.
      “Everything in here boils down to one issue,” Rackley said. “And that’s just simply that you can’t fund EMS services with fire assessment proceeds.”
     Rackley went on to say that if the city wants to increase the CFR’s level of service from fire-first responder to fire-ALS non-transport, then the city will need to add money that comes from a source other than what the county provides from its collection in Zone 7 for Fire Service.
     There was a question about the county EMS fees being used to help pay for the improved CFR response.
     The answer there is that people in Otter Creek, or Bronson, or Williston, or Cedar Key, or some other part of the county might complain that the Chiefland area of the county is enjoying an enhanced level of service for EMS with the CFR being able to offer ALS while patients wait for an ambulance. The argument against that is that the whole county is supposed to receive equal EMS coverage.
     CFR Deputy Chief Gene Stockman said if money to help provide ALS non-transport comes from some source other than the county’s fire funds, he sees no problem. Stockman said the people just want to have their fire department’s paramedics able to provide the most care possible until an ambulance arrives, when the fire department gets to a scene first.
     Stockman went on to question, though, how the county could justify the LCPSD personnel covering fire and EMS from the same trucks and people at the same time, when the argument is to split hairs dividing those duties for CFR paramedics.
     Rackley said the county conducts a procedure to split costs for fire and EMS, so that it can use the same staff and equipment for different fire and EMS functions. In his report, there is an estimate of ALS calls, because the CFR does not provide ALS services yet.
     Stockman again stated his question of what is the difference between the county or the city using the same equipment and personnel for fire and EMS and then dividing the funds based on the calculations for how much of each type of service is performed by the LCDPS.
     Rackley said the county funds EMS with that assessment and it funds fire service with the fire assessment. After he went on with his detail, it seemed obvious that the city could use the same formula as the county if it wanted to divide budgets for funding the two types of services.
     This is when City Commissioner Teresa Barron told Rackley that the perceived problem of paying for fire protection with EMS funds could be solved by the county giving the city some of the EMS assessment funds it collects.
     Rackley said that his understanding from the leaders in Levy County is that regardless of whatever the city does, the LCDPS will respond as it does already. So, the county is noting it cannot give the city money from the EMS assessment, because that is needed for the county’s EMS.
     Barron explained to Rackley that Chiefland used to have two ambulances housed in the city limits five or six years ago. When the LCDPS chose to reduce that to one ambulance in Chiefland, that was seen as a 50 percent reduction in level of service by some city residents and visitors, she said.
     Rackley said this is necessarily the case. It is his opinion that there is more to determining level of service than the number of ambulances parked at various points in the county.
     “So if Bronson used to have one ambulance and now they have two,” Barron asked, “they don’t have a higher level of service?”
     Rackley said it is his opinion that the number of ambulances parked in a city does not single-handedly relate to levels of service. He said the entire county needs to be viewed as a whole.
     Barron said a CFR paramedic helping a patient while they wait for an ambulance in Chiefland would benefit the whole county, because that would relieve the stress on the whole ambulance system.
     “So if our response times were lower when we had two ambulances here, and they are much higher now, and I am talking about ambulances because they have to come from Bronson or wherever, that’s saying that the level of service has declined,” Barron said.
     Barron said the people of Chiefland wanted to have a study to show the city how to get this project done. Rackley said the county hired his firm to determine if there was a danger to the funding mechanism.
     The city agreed to pay up to $10,000 to have the study completed. County Commission Chairman John Meeks reminded listeners that the county would reimburse that cost if the city went forward with the ALS program. If the city does not go forward, then the study is funded by the city alone, Meeks said.
     CFR Assistant Chief A.D. Goodman said the CFR plans to continue sending firefighters to serve as first responders for medical calls that are less than those that require ALS.
     Therefore, Goodman said he fails to understand why the county would want to remove the funds it gives to the city for fire-first responder service, if the city goes to the ALS non-transport level.
     The one point County Commissioner Lilly Rooks made is from her own experience with how long an ambulance takes to respond. She suffered from a stroke.
     Cedar Key Fire Chief Robert Robinson said he thinks that ambulance came from Bronson to reach Rooks in the Cedar Key zone of the county.
     “I would like to see this happen,” Rooks said, “because then Cedar Key’s ambulance can stay in Cedar Key.”
     Mayor Pomeroy said if CFR offered ALS non-transport, it would benefit the whole county. Also, as time goes on, other municipal fire departments like Cedar Key and Fanning Springs might have their paramedics train to the county’s level so that they can provide ALS while waiting for an ambulance.

MEDICAL DIRECTOR SPEAKS
 Chf041315J    Dr. Jason Jones, the medical director for Levy County, addressed the people in the audience after Abraham Blitch asked what determines an ALS call versus a BLS (Basic Life Support) or first responder call. Chief Harris said he questioned the 4,000 ALS calls that were reportedly being made in Zone 7 annually, when he was asked why his department was not responding to those calls.

Dr. Jason Jones

     Jones said he is not a politician but is a doctor. He is paid by the County Commission to have a protocol for LCDPS EMS patient care.
     He is also an assistant professor at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
     When a person calls 9-1-1, he said, there is a hierarchy of calls. A call for a sprained ankle is BLS. Chest pain is an ALS call, he said. After that, the paramedic can upgrade or downgrade the call severity. And retrospectively for insurance and funding, a call can be decided later to be one or the other, Dr. Jones said.
     Dr. Jones said CFR can still apply a certain level of lifesaving techniques even without ALS. The firefighter-EMTs and firefighter-Paramedics can provide cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPS). They can use a defibrillator to shock a heart out of a bad rhythm, Jones said.
     He said one element in this proposal is to assure that CFR paramedics meet the same rigorous training and practice as the LCDPS paramedics.
MONEY
     In the end, the question is funding. As it stands, the city appears to have to be willing to find the revenue to improve the CFR so that it can provide ALS. The improvements would be in staffing levels and added training for paramedics, beyond the state requirements for licenses, to meet the standards set by the LCDPS and the Levy County medical directors.
     City Attorney Norm Fugate said he sees an estimated cost of $55,000 for a one-time startup price for adding equipment. And a $71,000 annual increase in funding for CFR to add ALS. And Fugate said he is seeing a $66,900 reduction from the county in funding for the city’s first-responder medical service.
     City Commissioner Barron said she believes the county will be better off if this happens, because to add an ambulance costs $500,000. The cost for CFR to offer ALS non-transport is far less than that, she said.
      Ryan Bell said he is happy to address the city and county as a resident and business owner rather than as a county commissioner. He mentioned that everyone wants good emergency health care.
     He added however that just as a person who doesn’t like the dust from living near a dirt road might move to an area with paved roads, the same is true for people in rural areas who want good emergency health care.
     “If I want to be close to a hospital, then I move to be there,” he said.
     There are trade-offs from living in a rural area. His 94-year-old grandfather would not move to Gainesville from Rosewood, even it would put him closer to a hospital, because he does not want to live in the city.
     Bell said it comes down to money. He would like to know the cost as a taxpayer.
     “We’ve got a roadmap of how to get there,” Bell said. “And the bridge is money.
      How much as a county resident, as a business owner, will this cost? If he is told the amount, then he can decide if he believes he can afford it.
     “Quite frankly, I can’t see challenging a proven system until we prove our system,” Bell said. “We want it. We’ve got to pay for it. Let’s figure out how to do it. And let’s not have 19 more of these meetings.”
     Mayor Pomeroy said the City Commission needs to decide how to pay for the improved service.


Robbery suspect arrested
after Smoke & Spirits caper

By Jeff M. Hardison © April 15, 2015 @ 2:37 p.m,
      GILCHRIST COUNTY – Chiefland Police Chief Robert Douglas in a verbal report to the Chiefland City Commission on Monday night (April 13) spoke about a woman suspected of armed robbery who was captured.
      “The other night,” Douglas said, “at Smoke and Spirits, we had a young lady go in there and do an armed robbery. She left. A citizen saw it. Followed her. Called it in. She was stopped right down the road. And had some other charges on her, and we are now obtaining a warrant for her arrest for armed robbery.”
 GCSOsakers041515     Smoke and Spirits, 1564 N.W. 27th Court, is in the Chiefland city limits. The store sells tobacco and alcohol products, except on Sunday when no alcohol is sold in the city limits of Chiefland.

Melanie Joycelyn Sakers, 25, of Archer is shown here in a GCSO mugshot, where she is strapped into a chair to help protect officers from her attacking them.
Photo by GCSO staff

     Smoke and Spirits, like the discount liquor store at the intersection of U.S. Highway 19 and Levy County Road 320 East are among the most recently annexed properties that lose revenue due to the city’s ordinance stopping alcoholic beverage sales on Sunday.
      As for the suspected armed robber who allegedly tried to reduce profits even more from the Smoke and Spirits, records from the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office and the Chiefland Police Department show her actions would not be those of a “lady.”
      GCSO Deputy Wayne Dasher arrested Melanie Joycelyn Sakers, 25, of Archer for battery on a law enforcement officer and harming a public servant. Bond was set at $75,000 for each crime for a total bond of $150,000.
      That arrest was at on April 8. It resulted from Sakers allegedly spitting on a Levy County Sheriff’s Sgt. L. Allen and for Sakers allegedly threatening to kill the spouse of GCSO Deputy Dasher.
      Here is the series of events before Sakers allegedly spit on Sgt. Allen and threatened to kill the deputy’s wife, according to records.
      Video surveillance, eyewitness accounts and GCSO records and CPD records show that Sakers entered the store in Chiefland wearing a dark baseball cap and dark sunglasses. She had a backpack that she wore in front of her.
      Sakers threatened to shoot a clerk and blow up the store with the explosives she reportedly had in her backpack, if he did not give her money. The clerk told her that he thought she did not really want to do that for a small amount of money. She never showed a gun or explosives, according to records.
      She became enraged when the clerk tried to explain she was not making the best choice, according to records, and the woman damaged a credit card scanner that had been mounted to the counter. The clerk gave her $260 in cash.
      She left the store and a store patron (Jesse Schonborn) followed her car in his car, calling 9-1-1 to describe the car, the tag number and the direction of travel.
LCSO Deputy Kevin Sheppard picked up the pursuit of the car and he stopped Sakers in Gilchrist County, according to records. GCSO Deputy Dasher arrived as backup.
      After more officers arrived, the suspect became combative with the deputies and spit on Sgt. Allen.
      She remained in the Gilchrist County Jail on those charges as the CPD collected evidence to present to Levy County Judge James T. Browning so that he would sign a search warrant for the suspect’s car and an arrest warrant for the suspected robber, according to records.
      The car was towed to the Chiefland City Barn area, where it was stored in the CPD Impound Area until it could be processed. The owner of the car Marcelyn Sakers called about it on April 9. She reportedly told CPD that she would sign a consent form to allow it to be searched.
      On April 14, she called to say she did not want to sign a voluntary consent to search form, according to records. That is when law enforcement officers showed Judge Browning enough reasonable cause for him to sign a search warrant.
      Judge Browning also on April 14 signed an arrest warrant for Sakers charging her with robbery, which was served on Sakers while she was in the Gilchrist County Jail, according to records. That increased her bond by another $100,000 for a total bond now of $250,000, according to records.
      A search of the car on resulted in officers finding a black backpack, a Crown Royal bag, a black baseball cap, black sunglasses, a wallet, and $260 in currency.


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Fifty-Seventh Jingle Singers


The newest performers of the HardisonInk.com jingle are two singers who performed it on April 11 at the Levy County Fair. Two queens gave a new performance method for the jingle on Saturday (April 11). Imperial Beauties Florida Pre-Teen Queen Mackenzie Henderson (left) and 2015 Levy County Fair Queen Sabrina Brice sing the jingle with Brice starting it and Henderson finishing it. Everyone is invited to sing the HardisonInk.com jingle. If you see Jeff Hardison and you want to sing the jingle, just let him know or send an email to hardisonink@gmail.com. He asks people to sing it, too, and some of them agree to sing it. (Thanks people!) The next jingle performer has not been recorded yet.
Published April 12, 2015 @ 8:37 p.m.
-- Video by Jeff M. Hardison


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-- UPDATED --

SAT.  APRIL 18  6:47 a.m.

Levy, Dixie, Gilchrist counties



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