Controversy Surrounding Leon County Hurricane Shelter Shutters Project

How safe are Leon County's shelters from the battering winds of a hurricane? That's the question a Leon County commissioner is asking in light of concerns that new hurricane shutters aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Leon County is in the midst of retrofitting hurricane shutters on more than 70 school buildings. The $2 million project is behind schedule and some fear the shutters aren't being installed well enough to protect the people inside.

It's part of a 100 percent federally funded program.

Richard Smith, director of the Leon County Emergency Operations Center, says, "The project wasn't completed in the original time line, that's a fact. We however were able to get an extension from the Department of Community Affairs."

The windows are now being installed by an Atlanta-based company, Phoenix Architectural, and at least one Leon County commissioner has concerns about Phoenix and the bolts it's using to secure the shutters.

Tony Grippa of the Leon County Commission says, "I was concerned when the Board of County Commissioners voted to go with Phoenix because of their past performance. They've had issues from around the state and with such an important thing as protecting our children in school, and our citizens, I think we ought to have the highest quality shutters. "

WCTV did speak with the emergency management director in Sarasota, Florida. He confirmed Sarasota County would no longer be doing business with the company because of concerns the shutters may not have been installed securely enough to withstand a hurricane.

Richard Smith says, "I don't know the story in Sarasota. I know there were some issues down there on installation as well. We've done the right thing and we are going to monitor this project and make sure it's done on time and done right."


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