Not every politician gets a day like the one state Sen. Mike Fasano had Monday.
He stood side-by-side with Gov. Charlie Crist and other elected officials in front of a brand-new, $7.5 million building called the Mike Fasano Regional Hurricane Shelter.
"This truly was a dream a few years ago," Fasano said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Fasano was the driving force behind securing the state and federal money for the 37,000-square-foot facility, which will serve two purposes: providing emergency shelter space for 1,000 people and housing health clinics for low-income and uninsured residents.
"It's a great credit to his hard work," said Crist, a longtime political ally of Fasano, who made a rare stop in Pasco for the event.
Spring Engineering and Bandes Construction Co. designed and built the project, delivering it to the county eight months ahead of schedule and with no cost overruns.
"This is really an early Christmas present to the citizens of Pasco County," Commissioner Ann Hildebrand told the crowd of more than 100.
The shelter is the first in the country designed with the latest standards set by the International Code Council and National Storm Shelter.
Translation? It was built to withstand wind speeds of 190 mph and debris moving at 90 mph.
Everything from the doors to window-shielding devices were custom-made to meet the stricter standards, said Spring Engineering president Rich Bekesh.
The facility will also be the first county building designed to win certification from the U.S. Green Building Coalition's LEED program, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
The new building will house a county health department clinic, which is scheduled to open in early January.
Premier Community HealthCare Group also plans to open a primary care clinic for the low-income and uninsured at the facility. But Premier needs $350,000 in start-up money, and a federal grant to help with those costs did not come through.
Fasano said he has been talking with county officials about piecing together state and county funds to help get the clinic open, and he's also hoping local hospitals — which would likely see fewer uninsured people in emergency rooms — will pitch in.
Not counting the county health clinic, operational costs for the new facility — the energy bill and maintenance, for instance — will be about $75,000 a year, said Assistant County Administrator Dan Johnson.
Reach Jodie Tillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6247.