FORT MYERS, Fla. — Long before Hurricane Ian, Irma, and the COVID-19 pandemic, Lee County planned to expand its Emergency Management Operations Center.
In 2019, the Lee County Board of Commissioners approved a $28.7 million contract with an architectural firm.
On Thursday morning, five years later, they broke ground for the expansion.
“We want to provide services, quality services that’s why everyone keeps moving here," said Lee County Commissioner Cecil Pendergrass. "We want to make sure we can provide that and care for people as they move here.”
The construction for the expansion started a few days before the official groundbreaking ceremony.
The renderings for the additional two floors, which are around 38,000 square feet, include new technology, training facilities, sleeping areas, restrooms and showers.
The space will be home to the Public Safety Administration, Emergency Medical Services, Emergency Communications and Lee County Traffic Operations Center.
Both commissioners Pendergrass and Brian Hamman said they've spent several nights at the facility during the pandemic and recent hurricanes.
“This is the ultimate support facility for our first responders and the people who support our first responders," Hamman said.
He added that by 2030, the population of Lee County could reach one million people and this facility will keep up with population growth.
Southwest Florida is all too familiar when natural disaster strikes.
"It’s not if, but when, and we are going to be prepared with this facility when something happens," Hamman explained.
They plan to finish the expansion in about 18 months. When the project is completed, they'll rename the facility to the Lee County Public Safety Center.