St. Andrews Circle North
FORT MYERS — Lee County officials on Monday delayed awarding a contract to demolish Gail Andrews’ Fort Myers home, where she’d lived with her mother’s skeleton more than 14 months, so her attorney can negotiate a plan to renovate it.
County officials received two bids from their four demolition contractors, but won’t award a bid as long as 61-year-old Andrews continues working to clean and renovate the 50-year-old ranch on St. Andrews Circle North.
“Progress will keep us away,” said Community Development Spokeswoman Joan LaGuardia. “Progress will prevent us from awarding that demolition contract. ... But if it appears the situation is at a standstill again, we remain prepared to award a contract and raze the building.”
“The message to everyone is we won’t let it come to a standstill again,” LaGuardia said, referring to neighbors’ hopes that the foul odors, rats and other pests would come to an end after demolition.
Andrews’ attorney, Matthew Toll of Cape Coral, successfully delayed a Sept. 2 demolition deadline, giving Andrews until Sept. 17 to clean out the house. But on Sept. 20, county code officials inspected and found she hadn’t put much of a dent in the mounds garbage inside. Toll wrote a letter to county officials Monday, detailing contractors and others who are helping, and noting that Andrews and volunteers have filled two 30-yard Dumpsters with trash from the home.
LaGuardia said they’d move forward with demolition and would open bids Friday and award a contract Monday, but that changed when Andrews was joined by increasing numbers of volunteers.
Toll's Letter says developer Donald Nyman also made a charitable offer to renovate the home where Andrews lived 36 years, until it was deemed structurally unsafe in June. And architect and general contractor Steven Kahn also is willing to provide free labor to oversee construction. Sangelo Electric got the electricity going again, Michael Marchetti of Bonita Springs Plumbing and Gas is dealing with plumbing needs, and Colonial Roofing will provide roofing, Toll's letter says. has
Toll is working to provide county officials with a plan and timeline to stave off the wrecking ball and hoped to help Andrews obtain a reverse mortgage when she’s 62 in January to provide income and pay for renovations. However, his letter says all the volunteers providing help now makes that unnecessary.
Andrews' plight became national news after Lee County Sheriff’s deputies conducted a wellness check June 4, prompted by neighbors repeatedly complaining about rats and odors and questioning whether Andrews’ mother was dead inside. After deputies smelled a foul odor, saw trash and rats and mice running around inside, they obtained a search warrant and found Gladys Andrews’ skeleton hidden among piles, wrapped in blankets.
Andrews said her 88-year-old mother fell making her bed, couldn’t get up and she couldn’t lift her, so she made her comfortable with pillows and blankets and she died two days later. Fearing she’d be thrown out of the home, Andrews said she didn’t reveal the death for 14 months, until her plight became national news. She was committed to a psychiatric facility after suggesting she might kill herself, but released after the maximum stay, three days.
Once Andrews resolves the demolition question, she still has to deal with her unpaid taxes, paying off tax certificates purchased by investors, and possible criminal prosecution for cashing her mother's Social Security checks.
LaGuardia said she's been contacted by The Learning Channel TV show, Hoarders, but they weren't interested in Andrews' home after learning it county officials condemned it as structurally unsafe.