CAPE CORAL/CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. - For days WINK News has been asking tough questions about firefighter staffing in Cape Coral, and the fire storm is getting more intense.
First, firefighters told us they're short staffed and blame the budget. The mayor countered saying too much money was spent on elaborate fire stations.
"If we hadn't carelessly spent the amount of money that we spent, on having to buy the biggest the expensive toys in town... I mean they spent $60,000 dollars on two brass polls."
WINK News did more digging. We found two stations - one in Port Charlotte and one in Cape Coral - built about the same time, but the price tag is millions of dollars different.
WINK News compares what's there and you decide. Did the Cape spend too much of your tax dollars to work in luxury?
Cape Coral's mayor said one station cost taxpayers six million dollars. We found a station, that staffs more people than that one, for millions cheaper in Charlotte County.
One Cape Coral fire station staffs seven people and costs six million dollars.
"We could've built three fire stations for the cost of that one."
Charlotte County did. Station One in Port Charlotte staffs 10 people and cost 1.2 million dollars. Station 11 cost 1.5 million.
"It just depends on who's designing them. You can design big, 3-4 story fire houses with 6 bays, or you can just design it for what you need."
WINK News got tours of both buildings:
Cape Coral spent more than $60,000 on two fire poles. Charlotte County stations don't need them.
"The single story building was sufficient. There's no need for us to go two stories."
Another cost saver in Port Charlotte - their rooms are separated by partitions with a bed and night stand. In the Cape, each staff member has their own individual room, including a recliner.
The fire chief in Charlotte County wants his fire fighters to have a weight room, but left it out of the plans to save money... but in the Cape Coral station we toured, we saw a weight room.
"The city of Cape Coral had the habit of buying the biggest, the best, and the most expensive toys, and now the chickens are coming home to roast."
Only two stations in the Cape are designed the same, but Charlotte County has been using the same contractor and building materials for six years now to save money. Mayor Sullivan said that is something the Cape should've been doing long ago.