The EMERALD STAR NEWS Inc.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Walton County Deputies save two young lives
For most people, a day in the office consists of staff meetings, returning emails and phone calls, writing business proposals, or dealing with the occasional angry customer;however, for Deputy Sheriffs Chad Biernacki and Tommy Thillet, their day in the "office"varies from one moment to the next. From taking an impaired driver to jail to breaking upfights, these deputies see it all in a 12 hour shift. Both of them had the occasion in the past few weeks to save two young lives, both on the job and off.K-9 deputy Chad Biernacki said the call he went to on the night of April 29, 2012 was oneof the most stressful he's ever gone to. Deputy Biernacki was patrolling the Freeport areawhen he heard a call go out of a child in distress. He was closer than the unit that hadoriginally been dispatched to the call so he notified the Communications Center that hewould take the call and be en route. By the time Biernacki arrived on scene, the 6 day oldchild was turning purple. He took the child and performed back thrusts until the child began to spit up. The child's mother then began to suction out the baby's mouth. Thechild began to make noises and the color came back. "Going into it was like second na-ture, thanks to the training I've been afforded," Biernacki said. "Afterwards though, theemotions hit." Biernacki said he started thinking about his little girl and is thankful."It's good to know that we are trusted by the community, on duty or off, to help peoplewhen they have problems. They know we are there to help," Biernacki said. Deputy Bier-nacki has worked for the Walton County Sheriff's Office for almost 7 years and this callwas the first in which he encountered saving a child's life in such a manner. He began hiscareer in the Patrol Division covering South Walton County. He currently works in theSpecial Operations Division as a K-9 deputy, with his partner, Nero. Nero is a certifiednarcotics, tracking, and article search dog.According to Biernacki, he deployed Nero approximately 300 times last year. Biernackireceived his Bachelor of Science Degree from Florida State University in Criminologyand said one of his goals is to one day work in the Criminal Investigations Division as anarcotics investigator.Deputy Tommy Thillet proved that being a law enforcement officer doesn't stop at the endof the shift. On April 30, 2012, Thillet had just arrived home after his shift for the day.He heard a knock on his door and when he answered it, there was no one there. As hewalked out onto his driveway, one of his neighbors said another neighbor's baby was dy-ing. Deputy Thillet saw a woman a few houses down trying to get into her vehicle withher child. He ran over to her and took the 9 month old child from her arms. The childwas unresponsive and mucus was coming from its mouth. He began back thrusts andchest compressions. Thillet said he kept thinking to himself, "Please God, don't let this baby die!" After several rounds of thrusts and compressions, a penny was dislodged fromthe baby's mouth and the child began to breathe again.Deputy Thillet credits his training as an EMT and law enforcement officer as to how hehandled the situation. Thillet has been employed by the Walton County Sheriff's Officefor 5 years. He previously served as an EMT in Okaloosa County and as a lifeguard. "I'mhappy to be part of an organization that focuses on keeping its officers up to date on train-ing." Currently, Thilletis assigned to the PatrolDivision and works inthe Sandestin area of South Walton. He is amember of the SWATand Dive teams. DeputyThillet said that as longas he can remember, hehas wanted to serve the public as a law enforce-ment officer. Thilletcomes from a family of law enforcement officers,and he attributes his loveof law enforcement togrowing up having thoseinfluences in his life."We do this job becausewe want to help people.It's not for the money. Itfeels good to know thatI've saved a life, whether it's on duty or off," Thil-let said.
Tax Vote Follow-Up
As reported by WZEP AM1460
Now that around 60% of the Walton voters who turned out agreed to increasethe sales tax by half a cent, what happens next and how long will the tax last?Tax issues are generally considered hard to get passed. When the WaltonCounty School District proposed the shift in tax dollars from the capital to theoperations budget, even though it was to be a swap, they had to lobby hard withthe public to get the approval and re-approval. With a down economy, some saidadding a sales tax was not the right decision for the businesses. At first the pro- posal was for a one cent sales tax with a less than 10 year pay off. This wouldhave made Walton the highest sales tax county in the state. The commissioners put the half cent question to the voters. Their answer was yes. The sales tax or atoll was needed as a dedicated revenue stream to allow the county to borrow $75million for its share of building the bridge. If the answer had been no, then thecommissioners would have had to decide if they wanted a toll, wanted to turndown any offers from the state or try to find another option.The Florida Department of Transportation came to Walton after around 50years of locals asking for help in getting U.S. 331 widened. The FDOT hasalready widened the section south of the bridge to Highway 98 and will soonstart a section north to Highway 20. There is also a small section underway north
of Owl’s Head and a meeting will be held Thursday afternoon to discuss planned
widening from the new construction to Edgewood Circle in Woodlawn. Thatmeeting is from 5-6pm at the DeFuniak Springs Community Center.WZEP First News talked to Walton County Administrator Greg Kisela. He saysthe tax vote has a mechanism built in that will require the half cent sales tax togo away after the loan is paid off. Kisela says the tax cannot be extended withoutanother vote.He also says the loan will be structured in a way it can be paid off quicker thanthe projected 15-18 years. When looking at how the $75 million could be fi-nanced, the county used conservative numbers based on past sales tax incomewithout taking into account what could be increased revenue.Kisela says he expects the loan to be paid off quicker than the 15 or more yearsand this means the tax rate will come back down.Visit South Walton is a driving destination. Driving a two lane 331 with kids inthe car for eight hours makes some drivers very ancy, especially when behind aslow moving vehicle. Kisela says the roadway accesses in the neighboring coun-ties are a marketing concern when considering the destination. He points out that better roads to the east could mean vacationers might start taking those routes if 331 becomes more congested.He points out Okaloosa has a $150 million debt for the toll bridge and a high
toll, but the bridge is only two lanes. With Tuesday’s vote, Walton will have a
$75 million debt and a four lane bridge and four lanes from I-10 to 98.Kisela also says about 60% of the sales tax comes from visitors to the south part of the county. If there was a toll, they might pay the toll a few times a year, but the main burden would be on the local users. He notes many of the users are
people who live north of the bay and work south of the bay. The FDOT’s own
statements say that 40% of the out of the area collections do not get collected.By using the sales tax instead of a toll, he says the loan will get paid off quicker and the burden will be shifted more to the tourist industry users.Kisela also points out there is a $5000 cap on large purchases. This means, if you buy a car or boat in Walton, you will only pay the additional half cent salestax on the first $5,000.What about the option to do nothing and tell the FDOT Walton does not wantthe deal. Kisela feels, after many years of getting no real progress, the project isneeded. He says the $75 million investment by Walton will not only mean a sec-ond bridge, but repairs to the existing causeway and four lanes all the way to I-10.Remember theveterans thatsacrificed for our freedoms.Memorial Day isMay 28th.