State workers train alligators, save taxpayers thousands

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A state program designed to save taxpayers money produced some interesting, and in some cases, life-changing results this year.

Florida TaxWatch and Prudential awarded 170 state employees for finding new and inventive ways to save the state time and money.

Christine Smith of the Florida Department of Health started a competition between clinics to see which one could produce the highest increase in breastfeeding rates.

"Breastfeeding lowers health costs for mother and baby," Smith told FOX 13.

Karen Wilson helped streamline the process to get test results processed through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. What took agencies up to a month to get back now may one take a day.

"Now, with the process we have implemented, there are some things we can get done and turned around in a day," Wilson explained. 

State employees at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park may have come up with one of the more interesting money savers this year. 

The team trained the park's eight alligators and one crocodile to respond to commands.

They said when a storm like Irma is headed their way, their reptiles need to be held for safe-keeping. 

Typically they would hire trappers to crate and move the critters, but not anymore.

The park's employees decided to train the reptiles, using food, to get into their crates so they can be moved.

Their efforts have saved the state about $4,500, according to the park manager.

The park manager said training a gator or crocodile is not easy, but the key is consistency. 

A full list of TaxWatch winners is available on its website. At an awards ceremony Thursday, winners got a plaque and some were given cash prizes.

Since the inception of the program, TaxWatch says it has recognized hundreds of state employees for saving Florida taxpayers millions of dollars.