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New changes underway to make major hurricane evacuation shelter safer in Lee County

Posted at 6:06 AM, Jun 19, 2018
and last updated 2018-06-19 06:08:11-04

Lee County commissioners want to make a key hurricane shelter safer before another major storm hits.

During Irma, lines were out the door filled with thousands of families looking for shelter at Germain Arena. It’s one of the major public shelters for emergencies in Lee County. Because of that, county commissioners and the facility's owner want to make sure it stays upright in case a hurricane hits.

After Irma, county commissioners decided to draw up a new lease agreement with KTB Florida Sports Arena Limited Partnership. In exchange for that 30-year lease, the owner agreed to let the county use the facility as a public hurricane shelter.

The new agreement also includes putting on a new roof in-order to meet hurricane evacuation shelter guidelines. That way, it can withstand a category five hurricane or any major storm. County commissioners said the roof is about 20 years old.

The upgrades will be paid through Lee County's All Hazards Fund, which pays for hurricane readiness, response and recovery. The work is scheduled to begin late this year. There's no word on when it will be done.

The new lease agreement includes using Germain Arena to shelter pets during an emergency. Last year, they still allowed pets because they didn't want to turn any of them away but this new agreement will officially allow pets inside the arena in case a major disaster hits. There are only two other animal shelters in lee county for emergencies: South Fort Myers High School and East Lee County High School.

The arena can shelter up to 6,200 people. The county wants to maximize protection for those people and now animals, in case of a hurricane.

County commissioners and the facility’s owner will go over the proposed lease at 9:30 Tuesday morning.