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Here I go again...

I miss spending lazy Fridays chatting with Winnelle Horne on the porch of the Levy County Quilt Museum.

She certainly tolerated my foolishness while educating me on Levy County culture.

One thing the late founder often said to me, ”You're certainly opinionated.”

“Um huh. You want me to leave now?”

“No.”

But right about now, she might want to come back and snatch me up by the ear because I am going to give out an opinion that will rile feathers – something she warned against.

It's my opinion that the Levy Department of Public Safety needs to stop being the whipping boy of municipal fire chiefs and politicians eager to gain points with voters by saying outrageous things –especially about the department's headquarters.

After all, David Knowles has been gone five months and we have a new department director starting in September. It would be nice to have a fresh start.

But nooooo.

From bashing the amount of the fire assessment at $90 per residential parcel per year to how much the equipment costs nothing escapes criticism at the DPS.

The latest thing is politicians raising the cost of remodeling the old forestry work camp cost to $400,000 from the previously ballyhooed $300,000.

I think very few people have asked the county commission office for a list of expenditures on converting what was a prison with concertina wire topped fences in the middle of nowhere into offices and a training center for EMTs, paramedics and firefighters. Even fewer have visited the place.

The wire and fences are there. So's the free training for county volunteer firefighters to earn their Firefighter I certification.

The thought in creating the training academy is that every volunteer would get the same standard training so every fire department could work together more smoothly.

We don't need a training center, says the conventional wisdom.

Why? Well because the municipal fire chiefs have their own training programs. Williston has one and Chiefland has put some training facility in at the city's industrial park. And when they need additional training not provided at the two sites, they meet in Bronson for further training and Cedar Key's ladder truck comes over for training.

It's a good system, so why reinvent the wheel with a county training center.

I don't know about you, but five municipal fire departments, each with their own training looks like a lot of duplication or maybe a case of every fire chief's empire building.

Why not have every firefighter in the county train on one standardized program in one place?

Especially when the county will provide the training for free and help with supplying the first set of gear.

One person has even suggested that instead of a county training center, that the students go to the fire college in Ocala or Tallahassee. I do not think that person has checked to find out that the tuition can be several thousand dollars. And the student has to rent or purchase their own gear.

And we all know what happens when our youth go off to college elsewhere. It's bye-bye.

It's just my opinion, but I am thinking that when we recruit, train and equip our own residents we build a force that works together seamlessly no matter which department they are in.

Now if only we would make them sign an agreement that after they get all that free stuff they should stick around for a year or two so we get our money's worth out of it. Maybe once they are invested in Levy County, they will stay much longer and not look for paid firefighter jobs in other departments.

The training center is a good thing.

That is my opinion.

I think Miss Winnell might approve of this one.

Lou Elliott Jones is an editor with the Levy County Newspaper Group. She can be contacted at editor@chieflandcitizen.com or 352-493-4796.