The action at the new Alligator Point – St. Teresa Volunteer Fire Department’s new fire station Saturday afternoon was not about firefighters suiting up on a moment’s notice to rush off to a blaze, or first responders hurrying off to handle an urgent medical call.
At least not yet.
Rather, it was a giant party to celebrate the opening of the 40-foot by 60-foot fire station at 101 Tom Roberts Road, completed on time and fully paid for through the help of donations from throughout the community.
Fire Chief Hugh Hartsfield took center stage, thanking all the many people who had lent a hand or handed over dollar bills to fund the $750,000 project, built by Tallahassee-based Riley-Palmer Construction Company.
Kathy Yaeger, president of the volunteer board that governs the department, said the actual value of the project was about $777,000, thanks to a slew of donated items that included paint, lighting, security cameras, refrigerator, flagpole and television for the adjacent meeting roo,
And of course there were lots of donated time, such as that from retired contractor and local resident Adolphus Coolik, who Hartsfield singled out for praise due to his hands-on oversight of daily work by Riley-Palmer.
And the praise went the other way as well, as local resident Carol Kimbrough came forward to thank the department for pulling her car out of a jam not long before, a task that technically is not covered by their insurance but was extremely important for Kimbrough. She offered up effusive thanks, and a donation, for the work of the department.
Yaeger shared the second biggest news of the day, the first being that there was no mortgage, as everything has been paid in full through a combination of MSBU (municipal service benefit funds) and private donations.
She said the department is in the process of securing quotes for a new fire truck, after it has been approved for a $109,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The new truck will replace the main fire engine, a 1994 midship pumper. The station also has a 2005 crash rescue / brush truck, and the department houses a tanker from the late 1990s at the satellite station in St. Teresa.
Sheriff A.J. Smith, accompanied by wife Helen, was the lone representative of the county government in attendance. He praised the department for its strong support from local residents, and reminded them in good humor, standing alongside the department’s chief traffic enforcer Jim Ward, that tickets would continue to be issued.
Bert Boldt, the former county commissioner over the district, came forward to offer his words of support and encouragement for the devotion shown by the firefighters. The department has an impressive roster of 37 volunteers, including nine firefighters who are certified as either a Firefighter 1 and 2, a number far in excess of many larger volunteer departments across the state.
In addition, the department has more than 20 members who are either emergency medical technicians, which means they have completed a level of training similar to those who work on ambulances, or emergency medical responders, which means they are trained in CPR and other basic life support techniques.
There were raffles and gifts, ice cream and sodas and a live music performance by Dickie Hosford, front man for Tallahassee’s Tom and the Cats, and an Alligator Point resident who serves with the department as a firefighter and emergency medical responder.