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State funding for a fire and rescue station that serves travelers on Alligator Alley could end in June, leaving local officials with a tough choice.  

Greater Naples Fire and Rescue District Chief Kingman Schuldt said his department would have the option to foot the $1.5 million annual operations bill or close the station, which is located at mile marker 63 on Interstate 75.  

Funding for the station has been provided by the Florida Department of Transportation via fees generated at toll booths along the interstate since 2014. The current funding agreement with FDOT is set to expire June 30.  

The unit stationed at mile marker 63 responded to about 475 emergencies on Alligator Alley last year, Schuldt said.  

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Without the station it would have taken about 45 minutes for units from other stations in Collier County to respond to those 475 emergencies, which included car crashes, medical calls and wildfires, Schuldt said.  

Only about 12 percent to 15 percent of incidents on Alligator Alley each year involve residents of Collier County, Schuldt said.  

“Without state funding, Greater Naples Fire and the people of Collier County would be paying to provide services out there when it doesn't even really affect us,” Schuldt said.  

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He is working with local legislators to ensure FDOT continues funding operations of Station 63, Schuldt said.  

State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, agreed that FDOT should continue funding the fire and rescue station and filed legislation in November that would ensure the state funding continues indefinitely.  

Construction of the fire station was completed in 2014 as part of a larger project funded by FDOT, Passidomo said. 

The project, which cost $8.8 million, replaced the rest area with a larger restroom facility and other improvements in addition to the construction of Station 63. 

Station 63 is unique because it is the only fire and rescue station in the state that serves interstate travelers exclusively, Passidomo said.  

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“The argument that Collier County should pay for the operation doesn't make sense when the people injured or in accidents come from all over the state or all over the world,” Passidomo said. “There are no residents who live near the station.”  

The legislation, which was referred to the committee on infrastructure and security in mid-December, would continue using revenue generated from toll booths along I-75 to fund operations of Station 63.  

The hope is that legislation to lock up state funding will be passed during the upcoming legislative session, which is set to begin March 5, before the current funding agreement ends, Passidomo said. 

The importance of Station 63 cannot be understated, Schuldt said. 

“Without that station, you have close to a 45-minute response time to get some help out there in a life-threatening event,” Schuldt said. “That's a big deal.”

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