Editor's note: The following letter was sent last week to the Franklin County commissioners.
I am a longtime (35+years) resident of St. George Island and I want to share with you my great concern that we might miss a really good opportunity to improve our EMS services at this time.
My interest in and concerns about EMS services date back about 30 years. You may be surprised to learn that Marilyn Bean and I, on behalf of the St George Island Civic Club, directed a project to put street signs up on the Island so that the newly formed EMS would be able to find the callers who needed help. We purchased the signs and posts and the sheriff's department furnished labor for setting them and Marilyn and I supervised the placement. By the looks of things, many of the original signs are still standing and many others have been added.
Fast forward about 20 years when the need for better signage on the East End of the Island was discussed, and once again, I took it upon myself to leave letters on the doors of homes asking them to place large numbers on their homes and to also put numbers at the street. The real estate companies also worked on this project, but it is my understanding that sometimes homes are not easy to find on the East End. It may be time for the Civic Club to review the status of signage, especially on the East End.
Now it is your turn as well. We need a decision from the county to make changes which will bring further support to the EMS system. It is especially concerning to me that we ask staff to work inordinate hours of overtime because the shortage of employees. It is also not responsible to ask staff to perform one of the most difficult jobs in county government without benefit of health insurance or any other benefit for that matter.
I know it is hurtful to you to take the service from Weems (which you have been trying to save for at least 20 years and I hope you can be successful this time or stop what seems to be an impossible task). I know also that it is very difficult for you to find the dollars to appropriate that may be needed, but it is critical that the EMS service be infused with energy and organizational leadership and possibly dollars.
I ask that you do the right thing; move EMS to an organizational entity that can provide support to the people who give so much to the county. The sheriff's department as described in the news article (See March 15, 2018 Times “New group pushed for EMS changes”) seems to be a logical setting. I will volunteer my services to assist in this effort in any way that I can.
I am grateful for your service to the county and I can't even imagine the competing interests that you have to satisfy but I do know that public safety is one of the most important responsibilities of government. I am sorry to write this long letter but I will not be able to attend the meeting on April 3.
St. George Island
PS: It amazes me that we never ask the Tourist Development Council (I know nothing about their charter; forgive my ignorance) to help fund essential tourist services. Safety is one of the most important aspects of tourist development!