COLLIER COUNTY, Fla.- Collier County Board of County Commissioners Vice Chairman Jim Coletta expressed appreciation today at Governor Rick Scott’s decision to sign Senate Bill 2152, which includes language that dedicates excess toll revenue from the Alligator Alley Toll Road to develop and operate a fire station at Mile Marker 63 on the Alley to provide fire, rescue and emergency management services.
“Reflecting back, we have been meeting about this project for some time and it seemed to have no workable solutions,” Commissioner Coletta said. “And every week, there continues to be more accidents, injuries, fatalities. The modest-sized Ochopee Fire Control District based 30 miles away in Everglades City has been responding for 20 years and it now is financially stressed. This appropriation from the Legislature of users paying through tolls for a dedicated facility where it’s needed most goes beyond my expectations. I am elated and so very appreciative, especially of Senator Garrett Richter, Senator Mike Bennett and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, whom I met with specifically about this area in dire need of attention. I am thankful also for the support of the entire Collier Legislative Delegation.”
The Ochopee Fire Control District, a dependent district of Collier County, covers about 1,100 square miles, including I-75 from three miles west of SR 29 to the Broward County line. There is within this area a 78-mile stretch of I-75 where the Ochopee Fire Control District responds to frequent emergencies and serious mishaps often resulting in fatalities.
In 2009, Ochopee responded to 281 calls on the Alley, which represents 44 percent of their total load volume that year. In 2008, there were 297 emergency calls on I-75. And in 2010, there were 204 emergencies on I-75.
“I must say it has been a pleasure for me to work with the leadership of Collier County on this initiative,” said Senator Garrett Richter, a member of the Collier County Legislative Delegation who met with Commissioner Coletta when he was in Tallahassee March 23. “In addition, it has been rewarding to work with my colleagues in the Senate to address the need to develop and operate a fire station at Mile Marker 63 on Alligator Alley to provide fire, rescue, and emergency management services.”
The project envisions an emergency response facility to allow for acceptable response times for vehicle accidents, brush fires, medical calls, auto fires, and hazardous materials incidents.
“We applaud our local legislative delegation and the County Commission for support of this life and property saving initiative along I-75,” said Bureau of Emergency Services Director Dan Summers. “Our desire is and has always been to improve emergency response times and the chances of survival within the golden hour of trauma care along the distant sections of I-75.”
The county was seeking to secure $3,000,000 in state funding for the dedicated EMS and Fire Station on this busy stretch of I-75. That amount includes $1.3 million for station construction and equipment plus $1.2 million for personnel and operating expenses the first year.
In a discussion with FDOT officials in February 2011 regarding the demolition of the Mile Marker 63 rest area and reconstruction of the facility on the south side of I-75, a site was set aside for the EMS/Fire Station in the southeast quadrant of the interchange.
FDOT will provide infrastructure for the future station, including water, waste water and power, which will be developed for a separate meter. Collier County will make connection in the future. FDOT also has agreed to include the storm water needs for the station in their permitting for the recreational access areas.