ST. CLOUD, Fla. – Nestled on the southern shore of East Lake Toho, St. Cloud’s quiet, small-town feel was a big reason Michelle Mortorell moved there eight years ago.
“Everyone came looking for that small town,” Mortorell said. “I came here looking for that small town and getting away from the bustle and hustle, and it’s not there anymore.”
It’s difficult to keep that charm in a city that’s booming. St. Cloud is one of the fastest-growing cities in Florida, more than doubling its population in the last decade.
“There’s a lot of construction, a lot of new homes, new buildings, which I understand,” Mortorell said. “But there’s not enough infrastructure to support that.”
The infrastructure is coming, though. In fact, the city broke ground last week on a new fire station along Nora Tyson Road, a sprawling area on the east side of St. Cloud.
“When you look at this area, it’s kind of sandwiched in between two major corridors,” St. Cloud Fire Chief Jason Miller said. “Nova Road on our east. Narcoossee Road on our west. We’re just off Highway 192. Those are all major thoroughfares.”
As it stands now, it’s really difficult for St. Cloud Fire Rescue to respond to certain areas of the community since they’re operating the equivalent of two fire stations out of the downtown location.
Chief Miller said the new station will cut response times in half for folks who live nearby.
“That is life and death,” he said.
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The new station, which has a price tag of $1.58 million, should be operational by the end of the year. Due to St. Cloud’s rapid growth, though, plans for another new station on the west side of the city are already underway.
They’re essential investments for the community, but a heavy lift for taxpayers.
“Because of this growth, you have to serve the community,” Mayor Nathan Blackwell said. “One of the things you have to do is provide for their safety and security. That’s something our city is certainly committed to.”
Blackwell, who’s served as mayor for the last seven years, understands the growing pains residents are feeling but said he’d much rather be in a city that’s thriving than a city that’s stagnant.
“We just need to communicate to the residents that even though we’re a small town, we’re working hard to preserve that small-town feel,” he said.
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