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Mexico Beach to Get $1.1 Million for Fire Department

Valerie Crowder

Mexico Beach is receiving the first grant from $25 million in state Hurricane Michael recovery aid that became available to communities in early September. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Thursday that the town, where Hurricane Michael made landfall, will receive $1.1 million for its fire department and other emergency services. The grant amounts to roughly a third of the town's $3.5 million annual budget. 

"We knew some of the local services were in jeopardy, so we saw an opportunity," DeSantis said. "This 1.1 million dollar grant represents a lifeline to keep this fire department up and running."

The announcement comes after Mexico Beach City Council members voted last week to allow the Bay County Sheriff's Office to provide the town's law enforcement services, resulting in the elimination of the Mexico Beach Police Department.

Part of the $1.1 million grant - $100,000 - will support this transition, said Mexico Beach Mayor Al Cathey. 

"There's equipment to buy. There's vehicles. There's a startup cost," he said. "Our department is extremely depleted in terms of necessary equipment to make this upgrade." 

DeSantis says he plans to return to Mexico Beach on Oct. 10, one year after Hurricane Michael hit, to make additional recovery-related announcements.  He also visited the hurricane-ravaged town on his first day in office. 

For 80-year-old Margeret MacKinnon, a lifelong Mexico Beach resident, DeSantis' visit on Thursday let her know her community hasn't been forgotten. 

"We're way up here. Miami and Orlando are way down there. And they forget about us," MacKinnon said. "So, we're delighted that they remembered that we are here, and we appreciate it." 

Valerie Crowder hosts and produces state and local newscasts during All Things Considered. Her reporting on local government and politics has received state and regional award recognition. She has also contributed stories to NPR newscasts.