Monroe County Mayor Sylvia Murphy spoke bluntly Wednesday afternoon at the official unveiling of the new multimillion dollar Stock Island fire station.
"The old station -- there's really no other way to say it -- it was a hellhole. It really was," Murphy said to laughter from the audience of firefighters, paramedics and county and Key West officials.
The new $3.2 million Monroe County Fire Rescue Station 8 on McDonald Avenue was unveiled to the public Wednesday. Fire crews have been using the new station for the last few weeks.
Station 8 was built near the footprint where the former dilapidated and mold-infested garage and shed that housed firefighters for decades was demolished last year. The makeshift station wasn't even big enough for firefighters to house all their trucks.
The new station, which is designed to withstand 200 mph winds, was built on four lots totaling 25,000 square feet that surrounded the old station at the corner of MacDonald and Maloney avenues. The land was bought for about $650,000.
The new station was budgeted at $3.5 million, but came in under that at $3.2 million, or the same cost as the station on Key Deer Boulevard on Big Pine Key, said Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi. It contains housing for 24-hour crews.
"This is really about public safety and gives firefighters an absolute positive platform to do their job on a day-to-day basis," said Fire Rescue Chief Jim Callahan.
Firefighters are taking a large picture of the old Station 8 and placing it in the entrance lobby as a reminder, said Logistics Officer Michael Elias.
"We want the rookies to walk in this new facility and really appreciate where they are," he said as he led Gastesi on a tour.
"They guys deserve it, and the renaissance of Stock Island continues on," Gastesi said.
That last part is important, said County Commissioner Heather Carruthers.
"Stock Island is the part of the county that will probably see the most growth in the decades to come," she said.
Among those in attendance at the ceremony was Stock Island restaurateur Bobby Mongelli, owner of the Hogfish Bar and Grill, the newer Roostica pizzeria, and the Geiger Key Marina and Smokehouse located on Geiger Key.
"It's long overdue and they (firefighters) deserve it," Mongelli said. "They're in a great location for me. I burn a lot of wood (across the street at his Roostica wood-fired oven pizza parlor)."