A bill seeking a funding source for an Alligator Alley fire station will be heard as part of a transportation bill Thursday.
State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican, said lawmakers figured out a way to fund the station for the next eight years. The plan will be part of a transportation bill filed by state Sen. Ben Albritton, a Bartow Republican.
Instead of fully funding the station, costs will be shared by the Department of Transportation and Greater Naples Fire Rescue.
“They figured out 12 percent of the people served are from Collier County,” she said. So local governemnt will pick up 12 percent of the bill.
Of course, the typical Naples area fire station almost exclusively serves Collier residents.
But the fire station at mile marker 63 primarily responds to traffic accidents on the major highway. The roughly 88 percent of individuals who get served each year by fire station staff hail from other areas but use the corridor to cross the state.
Alligator Alley stretches from Collier to Broward counties.
But unlike other east-west corridors like Interstate-4 or Interstate-10, Alligator Alley rolls through largely un-developable property around the Everglades.
DOT opened a new public safety center at Mile Marker 63 back in 2014 as part of an $8.8 million project replacing a rest area structure there.
Before the station opened, accidents on the Collier end of the road required emergency responders to dispatch from Everglades City or Golden Gate. They could mean response times as long as 45 minutes.
Greater Naples Fire Rescue took over operations for in 2017. An interlocal agreement in place since 2014 required DOT to reimburse costs for the station. But that deal expires on June 30.
House companion legislation (HB 6011) to Passidomo’s bill didn’t make it to the floor in the Florida House.
But she said the House has agreed to handle the situation now the same way as the Senate, incorporating a plan for the station into a transportation bill.
Transportation officials have expressed reservations about dedicating toll revenues toward operating a fire station. Besides the straight loss in funding, there’s fear of setting a precedent.
But Passidomo has argued no other fire station in Florida nearly exclusively serves travelers on a highway that runs through undeveloped land.
Staff reports show the stations costs approximately $1.5 million a year to operate.