New hurricane shelter neglects proper procedures, commissioner says

Reporter: Erika Jackson
Published: Updated:

A major hurricane shelter could be coming to a much-needed area for people in Charlotte County. While there is no Red Cross approved shelters to take cover when a strong storm hits, Babcock Ranch might change that.

But first, one commissioner said the people behind the project are not going through the proper procedure to get it approved.

Babcock Ranch wants to put Charlotte County’s first Red Cross approved hurricane shelter here since it is 30 feet above sea level. Many people agree that it is needed but argue the town did some name dropping to get the bill to the governor’s desk.

Brian Ross was only 8-years-old when Hurricane Charley damaged his Southwest Florida home. He had no power for about two weeks, making life difficult.

Ross said he wishes his family went to a nearby hurricane shelter, which was not an option for many people in Charlotte County.

Syd Kitson, who works with Babcock Ranch, has been working with Florida Representative Mike Grant to bring a shelter to the area.

“So much of Charlotte County is in the flood zone,” Kitson said. “In the storm surge, we are not.”

Now it is up to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to approve the state budget, which allocates $8 million for a shelter.

Joe Tiseo, the Charlotte County commissioner, wants to see a new shelter in the area. But he said Babcock Ranch did not go about it properly.

The appropriations request said the proposal is in partnership with Charlotte County. Although, the county never held a public hearing or commission vote on the project.

“The board took no action,” Tiseo said. “It was represented that we did take action.”

The request also states that $2 million in funding would come from a local outlet.

Kitson said his team would approach Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties for that money starting next week.

“That has not been approved,” Kitson said. “We still have a ways to go before we have that public hearing.”

Ross said everyone in Southwest Florida needs easy access to a shelter before they are hit with another destructive storm.

“Something that can provide more than what you may have in your home,” Ross said, “I think is a wonderful thing.”

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