CAPE CORAL, Fla. - It's your money, and when our Call for Action team finds government waste: change happens.
We did a story in October of 2009, about lights being left on, when no one was working in buildings across Lee County. The city of Fort Myers public works director thanked us for bringing the story to light. And after our investigation, the city of Cape Coral changed its ways, saving you the taxpayer about $7,000 a year.
So when we got a tip that the lights at the new VA-Clinic in Cape Coral were on all night, we staked it out and made some calls. Rachael Rafanelli was the first reporter to take you inside the building before it opened. As she uncovered for this story, the lit up building may not be wasting your tax dollars, but doing, just the opposite.
We visited the clinic three times after closing hours. In once instance it was midnight, and some lights were on. But we're told, this is required by law to protect our war heroes.
Drive past Cape Coral's VA Clinic at midnight, and lights illuminate what looks like an empty building.
But spokesman Jason Dangel says that's not the case. He says two security guards roam the property at night.
"In order to, you know, detect any type of foul play, trespassing," he said.
In order to keep this area, and our veterans safe, he says it needs to be well-lit.
"It's life safety, it's security, our security systems in the building have to see, as well as our parking lot lighting," Dangel said.
He also says cleaning crews are in the building sometimes past midnight, as well as doctors and other staff. Aside from that, this is federal property, and the lights are required by law. "We follow strict security and fire prevention protocols," Dangel said.
And not all of them are on at night. At 9pm, some lights shut off automatically. In a view from the back of the building, you can see: most of the offices are dark.
WINK News has previously investigated the energy efficiency of the building, which Dangel says is saving taxpayers money in the long run. It was built to LEED standards, meaning, it's a green building.
The structure is designed to keep warm, or cool, air trapped inside, keeping energy costs low. During the day, large windows let in the natural light, as the artificial ones dim.
"We're just trying to protect an asset," said Dangel.
We also learned that some lights, not required to be on, will automatically turn off after 20 minutes when the room is unoccupied.