It's been a busy year for local elected officials. Volusia County Councilwoman Heather Post is no exception.
Post — who represents District 4 on the council which encompasses Ormond Beach, Ormond-by-the-Sea, Holly Hill, the western half of Daytona Beach along with portions of DeLand and DeLeon Spring — was recently appointed as chair of the National Association of Counties’ Veterans & Military Services Committee, as well as serves as the vice chair of the National Association of Counties' Justice and Public Safety Courts and Corrections subcommittee and vice chair of the Florida Association of Counties Federal Committee.
With several issues going on throughout the county, here's what Post had to say about a few of them:
Q) Traffic is on a lot of residents’ minds. What’s on the forefront of that issue?
A) There are a number of things happening in regards to traffic projects. I’ve had a number of meetings over the last couple of months with DOT and obviously county staff about it. We could talk about the Tomoka Bridge for a second. It appears that [widening] it will only cost $20 million.
That is a project that is going to happen. It’s moving forward. It’s just going to take time because of all the different processes it needs to go through.
I know there’s been a lot of talk about Tanger Outlets and bus service. It was brought up to me three years ago when I first came into office. I looked at it. I talked to county staff. The information I got at the time is that it would be $850,000 to just provide bus service to Tanger. That sounds ridiculous, but it was all laid out and shown to me that the reasoning behind it is we have to move things around and then we also would have to buy a whole other bus to get the routing right in order to not be pulling greatly needed service from other areas.
[At that cost,] there’s no way that I would approve that because I see so many other areas in my district where I’m looking at infrastructure needs where that $850,000 can be used for. When I look at the priorities, providing bus service to Tanger, when we have bus stops all in front of Tanger, that’s not in the best interest of the public. For the disabled, we provide the Gold Service, which is door-to-door drop-off.
Q) Talks about the half-cent sales tax have resurfaced. What is your opinion?
A) I’m infuriated by it. Truly. The message before was that we desperately needed to ask for money for the public to provide for infrastructure that we did not provide for in creating all this development. Then, we have a member of the County Council standing next to Kent Sharples — just like last time where the CEO Business Alliance was pushing the sales tax — and both of them get up an give a huge spiel that we must get money from the public for infrastructure for space.
I think the space industry is very important, but when I’m looking at priorities, I really think we need to be looking at our current needs and providing for those before we go onto other things.
Q) Can you tell me about some EMS improvements made over the last year?
A) We just graduated the very first class of the nurse triage in dispatch. That’s going to help when people call in and don’t necessarily need fire or an ambulance to respond to help assess what is going on in the situation to better care for everybody. The nurse triage program is a big change and tremendous start to all of that.
The other thing is we’re stationing an ambulance in Ormond-by-the-Sea’s [fire station]. We don’t normally station ambulances in fire departments. [Ormond-by-the-Sea] has needed an ambulance up there for a long time and we’re going to be initiating that service on Friday.
Q) You've pointed out that there are unrecorded veterans in Volusia County. What are you working on to remedy that?
A) I’m working with a number of different veterans organizations and trying to get them to understand that we really need to get this recorded. There’s only two ways that our veteran numbers are counted. One is if the use the VA. The other is if you join one of the local organizations, so the VFW.
When I initially came into this role, I was told we had about 65,000 veterans in our county. Since then, I’ve learned is how our county determines those numbers is just that. So there are many people in Volusia County that are not counted. I would say we’re closer to probably 95,000 veterans in the county.
Q) You're also working on the Medicaid Inmate Exclusion policy. What can you tell me about that?
A) When someone is arrested and placed into the county jail—so they’ve been charged with a crime but they haven’t been convicted of the crime—typically, a lot of people bail out in that time, but a lot of people don’t.
The problem is, through the Social Security Act, the moment you go into jail, you automatically lose your Medicaid. Our biggest problem in our county jail is the mental health and the opioid addiction issues. Somebody has to pay for all of that health coverage the moment that they’re in, right?
We are hemorrhaging our budget on addressing all of those health-related issues of people coming into the jail. The supplement of Medicaid being covered for those people having health insurance —that money that should be available but is not — is huge.
Q) What do you think residents should be focused on this coming year?
A) Being more involved and being more cognizant of your local government. Not everybody wants to, or will, attend meetings and certainly I can understand that, but just to have a general understanding of what’s going on in your community. These are decisions that affect you and your families day to day. It’s only when the citizens actually take note of things that their voice is really expressed.