Lake County wants $12 million to build a new special needs emergency shelter

Lake County wants to ask the state for $12 million to build a new special needs emergency shelter.

We are in peak hurricane season. After storms like Hurricane Irma in 2017 where Lake County took in more than 4,000 evacuees, county leaders want to make sure they’re prepared.

“Both the wife and I need special needs,” Robert Dashiell of Leesburg said. “I sleep with a CPAP. She has oxygen and a BiPAP and I have an emotional support animal, a small dog.”

Dashiell stayed in one of the county’s special needs shelters during the last storm.

“A lot of your seniors come into Florida retired and bought into mobile homes and mobile homes are not something to look down the throat with into a hurricane,” Dashiell said.

The plan is to build the shelter on a plot of land off 448 in Tavares, which the county also hopes to convert into its new fairgrounds.

“It would be good because I believe most counties in the state of Florida have a deficit for special needs space,” Lake County Emergency Management Director Thomas Carpenter said.

The money the county is requesting would go to make sure the building is hurricane proof and is equipped to keep electrical medical equipment going if the power goes out.

Since Lake County is inland, the director of emergency management said the new building would allow them to take in more evacuees from coastal counties.

“For us, with special needs sheltering, it’s really better if you can get everyone centrally located,” Carpenter said. “Then it requires less resources to manage it.”