TDC opens up more funds that can be used for community safety efforts

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Members of the Bay County Tourist Development Council said they are offering resources to keep more people safe at the beach.

TDC president Clair Pease said members are brainstorming ways to increase safety.

“TDC really goes above and beyond what they are required to do,” Pease said. Because they know it’s a problem and we bring guests here and we want to keep them safe when they come here.”

Tuesday’s council members agreed to open up what they call the Third Penny that would offer about $600,000 for public safety.

“The state of Florida has a law that says TDC can give up to and only up to 10 percent of every penny to public safety,” Pease said.

According to officials, the money is surplus funds for beach renovation. The beach renourishment projects have been completed and officials said they feel the extra money could better serve other areas.

Currently, there are approximately nine full-time and 6 part-time Panama City Beach lifeguards, Bay County has approximately 17. Together, the lifeguards patrol approximately 11 miles of shore.

Panama City Beach Safety Director Daryl Paul said he has seen firsthand the importance of swimming near a lifeguard and said more can save more lives.

“The industry standard is going to be a lifeguard every eight miles, that’s exactly what other agencies found works for the open water beach, not every agency can meet that standard or even maintain that standard,” Paul said. “It’s not like OSHA or NFPA or USLA standards, it’s just all the agencies working together and learning from each other, it’s just the staffing level that we found works best.”

The possibility of the $600,000 going to public safety is only in the initial stages and has not yet been finalized. It must be approved by the Bay County Commissioners to move forward.

If the third crown goes through, Pease said it will be up to public safety officials to decide exactly how to use the funds.

“They can hire lifeguards, they can buy equipment for lifeguards, they can buy equipment for the sheriff’s department, the fire department,” Pease said. “It’s up to them to decide to see where the need is and how to spend the money.”

Bay County officials expect the item to go before commissioners in August. If approved, TDC’s public safety appropriation will go from 2.66 million to 3.25 million.

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