Wildwood police officer honored for rescuing 9-year-old girl

Wildwood commissioners Monday honored a police sergeant who rescued a 9-year-old girl and took final steps toward construction of a new police station.

Sgt. Ken Amsler, who joined the department two years ago from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, received a commendation from Police Chief Randy Parmer for his role in a May 16 incident.

Police received a report that the girl had crawled out her bedroom window and disappeared sometime during the night.

Amsler had an idea where the child might be headed and reviewed business surveillance cameras, which confirmed his suspicion that the girl had been there.

Sgt. Ken Amsler, center, is honored by Chief Randy Parmer, left, and Mayor Ed Wolf.

Continuing the search, he found her walking along County Road 466. He got out of his car and made contact with the girl. Suddenly, he spotted another vehicle heading toward the girl at a high speed.

He got in front of the girl and attempted to wave down the driver, who did not slow down. When Amsler saw the driver apparently did not see them or was ignoring him, he grabbed the girl and pulled her out of the car’s path.

“Thanks to your efforts, a terrible tragedy was avoided and a young girl was returned safely to her family,” Parmer wrote in the commendation memo. “Your actions are a true reflection of your commitment to the community and the city of Wildwood.”

A group of uniformed officers at the meeting applauded when Amsler received the honor.

“Without fast thinking and even faster action, this could have been a horrific thing,” said Commissioner Joe Elliott. “I’m glad to see good people with good training make fantastic decisions.”

A groundbreaking ceremony for the city’s new police station could be held later this week, as commissioners also took final steps toward construction.

They approved a site plan for the 14,104-square-foot station and approved an amendment to an agreement with construction manager Charles Perry Partners setting the project’s maximum price at $385 less than $7 million.

The station will be built on the southwest corner of U.S. 301 and County Road 462 West, about a mile north of the bridge.

Construction is expected to take about a year, with completion scheduled for July 2020.

“It’s an aggressive schedule,” said City Manager Jason McHugh. “You’re going to see activity out there really, really fast,”

The project was delayed for two years by the city’s decision to use a construction-manager-at-risk process and one failed attempt to hire the construction manager. A construction manager at risk handles all subcontractors and guarantees a maximum price.

Mayor Ed Wolf, who has advocated for using traditional bidding instead of the construction manager at risk, continued to express skepticism.

“It doesn’t seem we believe any more that this process is about saving money,” he said.

The new station will have a brick facade, community room with a moveable wall, a sally port for prisoner transfer and a tower near the entrance. Built on 6.7 acres, the project also includes parking and water retention ponds.

It will be the first permanent home for the department since its Huey Street station was severely damaged in an electrical fire last October. Since the fire, officers have been using a temporary trailer parked on the old station site and substations on Jackson Street and in Brownwood.