VENICE, FL (WWSB) - When the City of Venice decided to open the Community Center as a hurricane shelter, despite it being the 11th-hour, the building quickly reached capacity. 400 residents and a variety of animals.
"It was time, despite the hurricane shutters, despite the new construction, this is where we need to be," said Phil Quartier.
At the time we interviewed Phil Quartier during hurricane Irma, he was grateful to have the center open it's doors because he and his wife didn't know where else to go.
Sarasota County refused to open the Venice shelter because they believed it sits at 13 feet elevation. 2 feet below the expected storm surge. We now know the building sits at 19 feet.
"What I saw was a lot of confusion during Irma. No one knew if their house was safe. No one knew where to go for a shelter."
Venice's Mayor is now calling for a city-wide inventory list of neighborhoods. Especially those that have community center buildings. He wants to know which are safe in a storm, and which could become shelters in the future. Assistant City Manager Len Bramble says that's not a small job.
"You don't know what's happened to that structure since it was constructed, it may have been improved, it may have degraded a lot. You just don't know," said Bramble.
Sarasota County Commissioner Nancy Detert told us Venice should never have been left without a shelter and promised this would never happen again. She also told us she had the same idea of looking into neighborhood community centers. The county has hired experts to look into their hurricane response.
As for the Venice Community Center, Bramble, says he would like to have a study conducted to determine the buildings strength in a hurricane.
"Yes, it fully meets category three criteria or yes it meets these, does not meet these or, it would if you do certain work," said Bramble.