New FMPD headquarters will cost taxpayers even more due to asbestos, lead paint

Asbestos. Lead Paint. That’s what is inside the buildings that will become the future Fort Myers Police Headquarters, and millions of your tax dollars paid for it.

According to records uncovered today, the city knew what they were getting into.

However, a Fort Myers councilman said this is a good deal for taxpayers, and the police department desperately needs an upgrade.

This week, the city agreed to pay $9.2 million for the old News-Press building and old fire station next door as part of a $36 million plan to build a new police headquarters.

“I feel really glad that they’re using an empty building,” said Christine Fowler of Fort Myers. “It really needs to be used and I’m sure the police department needs the room, but I wish they negotiated more on the price.”

The seller did well.

20 Lakes Holdings bought the building about a year ago for $4.75 million from Gannett, the owner of the News-Press, as part of a mass purchase of old newspaper buildings.

A year later, 20 Lakes flipped the building to the city.

Subtract the $500,000 in upgrades and the company profited about $4 million.

“Well, I wish my house doubled in value,” said Fowler.

“People work hard for their tax paying money,” said Eileen Hanly of Fort Myers.

We also uncovered records that show the old News-Press building has asbestos and lead paint, which would cost taxpayers another $280,000 to take care of.

“Yes, definitely. That’s a lot of money,” said Fowler.

Councilman Kevin Anderson said the city’s decision to change the land use rules made this a more prime piece of property because it’s considered part of the Midtown development plan.

On another note, Anderson said if the city would have tried to buy land and build from scratch, the projected cost would be $42 million.

The city says it can do it with this property, despite its problems, for $36 million.

Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
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