PONCE DE LEON – Ponce de Leon is in the early stages of planning construction for a new fire station with the help of $2 million in funding from the state.
Ponce de Leon Fire Chief Doug Remmel says a new station was among his goals when he first took over as chief five years ago.
“This building was built in the late 70s or early 80s, and we just really needed something newer, more up to date,” said Remmel. “We started working, getting into the process of it, trying to find grants. We were encouraged when we saw that Bonifay Fire Rescue was able to receive some state funding for their updates, so we started looking at that avenue and had meetings with Rep. Brad Drake and Sen. George Gainer when they were in office.”
Chief Remmel says the much-needed update will not only include a full kitchen and sleeping quarters; it will also make the station a safer homebase for firefighters during emergencies.
“When we rode out Hurricane Michael here, this old building really wasn’t safe,” said Chief Remmel. “In addition to offering a safer, more sound structure, we will also have a generator that will have the ability to power the station for at least one to two weeks and allow us to better do our jobs, man the station, and serve the community.”
Chief Remmel’s goals for the station is in line with a vision for growth in Ponce de Leon, a vision he says is shared by both town and county officials.
“The Town of Ponce de Leon, the Holmes County Commissioners – especially Commissioner Jeff Good – all worked together with state officials and groups like Liberty Partners and Vance Coley, who served as a lobbyist for us,” he said. “With everybody pitching in and going to Tallahassee a few times, it all sort of worked out. We can’t thank Gov. DeSantis enough for ensuring this happened.”
Rep. Shane Abbott and Sen. Jay Trumbull, both elected while efforts to secure the appropriations were already underway, picked up the mission to see the project funded.
“I am very pleased that with the help of Senator Jay Trumbull, we were able to secure $2 million dollars for the Ponce de Leon Fire Department,” said Rep. Abbott. “This project is important for the community of Ponce de Leon and will provide a much-needed safe facility for the hardworking first responders.”
Chief Remmel adds that he hopes the new station will also be a step toward establishing a paid department.
“Looking at the growth of this side of the county, I feel we need to ultimately be prepared for a paid station one day,” he said. “I’d like to see a fulltime staff. Volunteers are wonderful; in fact, more than 70 percent of all firefighters in the United States are volunteers – but the hindrance is that we all have full time jobs, and we can’t guarantee that we will be immediately available if something happens.”
Regardless of whether Ponce de Leon can make the transition into having paid staff, Chief Remmel says the station will be a point of pride for the town.
“It’s going to be a really nice landmark, something the people here can really be proud of,” he said. “It’s going to be a huge benefit to the town, the department, the county, and the community.”