Members of the Alligator Point St. Teresa Volunteer Fire Department flip the dirt on the new firehouse. The road base was cleared, the slab poured and the footers started prior to Saturday’s event. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]
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Alligator Point to get new firehouse

Helping to collect donations are, from left: Juliette Weidner, Rowan Pierce, Yancy Hosford, Abby Lyon and Emily Weidner. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

On a bluff overlooking Alligator Harbor, the Alligator Point St. Teresa Volunteer Fire Department celebrated a pair of successes Saturday afternoon, one made of brick, the other made of flesh and blood.
In terms of concrete, the event was the groundbreaking for a new professionally-built fire station, to be located on the highest land on the Point, about a quarter-mile from the aging fire station that was constructed largely by volunteers about five decades ago.
In terms of flesh and blood, the event celebrated the rejuvenation of the department’s ranks, to the point where there are now close to three dozen members, nine of them certified volunteer firefighters, and 21 of them at least with some firefighter training, and 23 of them emergency medical technicians or responders.
The only downside for the enthusiastic event was that Chief Hugh Hartsfield, who the firefighters offered great credit for the resurgence of the department, could not attend due to his recovering from COVID 19, and instead had to witness it from afar, masked behind the wheel of his pickup truck.
In his stead, Assistant Chief Paul Parker, who along with firefighter Kevin Griffin have been with the department 30 years, provided a history of the department, leading up to the current effort to raise $747,000 for the new station.
A large poster of a fundraising thermometer stood next to the groundbreaking tent, showing that $547,000 of that had already been raised.
Kathy Yeager, president of the department’s volunteer board, outlined the numbers, telling the crowd the current parcel had been bought in December 2018 for $98,000 from Capital City Bank, after it held the mortgage on the former site of the bustling 200-site KOA campground which closed in April 2005 when Hurricane Dennis finished it off.
The land was then slated for a proposed South Shoals development, but the real estate market flipped that belly up and it returned to the bank’s hands.
The new station will be built at a cost of $679,000 by Tallahassee–based Riley Palmer Construction Company. Its president, Sutton Webb, was on hand to share plans for the project, and spoke briefly on the company’s enthusiasm for the upcoming work.
The site of the current fire house, which now stands in the way of a proposed rerouting of Alligator Drive to bring it further from the water, was acquired from the department by the county in October 2022, at a cost of $230,000.
“The old one was severely damaged by multiple hurricanes, and not structurally sound,” said Yager. “We sold the building and the adjacent lot to Franklin County so they can straighten the curve in the road.”
To underscore the need for more fundraising, Yaeger dispatched a crew of young people to circulate among the crowd with firefighters’ boots and gather cash donations. She also displayed a $500 check she had received that morning from the Alligator Point St. Teresa Taxpayers Association, and noted that an anonymous donor had agreed to match up to $50,000 in future donations.
The ceremony opened with remarks from both Sheriff A.J. Smith, who “deputized” each of the kids, and from County Commission Chairman Ricky Jones. “This has been a long time coming,” said Jones. “And will work well into the future.”
Yaeger said the land where the crowd stood, adjacent to the third-of-an-acre site at 101 Tom Roberts Road, will likely become the helipad, provided it secures approval from the county and the FAA.
She said the new site is ideal because it is on an elevated piece of land, not in the flood zone. “It makes the trucks safer and hurricane preparedness easier and less expensive to build on non-flood zone land,” Yaeger said.
Parker said the department now has a 1994 midship pumper, and a 2005 quick attack brush truck, at the Alligator Point site, and a tanker pumper, from the late 1990s, that it houses at the St. Teresa station. “We’re applying for a grant from the state to buy a new fire truck,” Yaeger said.
In addition, taxpayers provide the department about $100,000 annually in MSBU (Municipal Service Benefit Units) that are annual fees tacked on to their property taxes.
In his remarks, Parker offered thanks to Wakulla County, for helping to train the department’s firefighters at its training grounds in Crawfordville.
He said continued upgrading efforts, particularly to expand water supply to the St. Teresa area, will help lower the department’s ISO ratings, and thus homeowners’ insurance premiums.
As it now stands, the Alligator Point area, in which properties are within 1,000 feet of a fire hydrant and within five miles of the fire station, has a rating of 6, while St. Teresa has that of a 9.
In addition to Yaeger, Parker and Hartsfield, the fire department board includes Vice President Ken Clizbe, Secretary Tonya McNabb and Treasurer Mike Booders, as well as Robert Gates, Rudy Meng, Ray Pierce, Bryan Scruggs, Tom Buchanan, Randy Taylor and Dickie Hosford.

The site of the current fire house, to be torn down to make way for a rerouted Alligator Drive. [ David Adlerstein | The Times ]

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Meet the Editor

David Adlerstein, The Apalachicola Times’ digital editor, started with the news outlet in January 2002 as a reporter.

Prior to then, David Adlerstein began as a newspaperman with a small Boston weekly, after graduating magna cum laude from Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later edited the weekly Bellville Times, and as business reporter for the daily Marion Star, both not far from his hometown of Columbus, Ohio.

In 1995, he moved to South Florida, and worked as a business reporter and editor of Medical Business newspaper. In Jan. 2002, he began with the Apalachicola Times, first as reporter and later as editor, and in Oct. 2020, also began editing the Port St. Joe Star.

Wendy Weitzel The Star Digital Editor

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