Local Officials' Reactions To Memorial Day Weekend Near-Drownings

PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. - This Memorial Day weekend nearly 200 water rescues were made. Like after most busy weekend, this has the conversation started about whether or not more lifeguards need to man the beaches. 
 
Mayor Thomas believes the city and the Tourist Development Council have done what they can to prevent drownings or near-drownings.
 
"The flag system, when you check into a motel they give you the flag system on a card, TDC spents money on lifeguards, the county and city spend money on beach patrol...you cannot stop people from doing crazy things," he said.  
 
Others are saying that the beaches just need more lifeguards, but that could come with a steeper price tag than they thought.
"It would be in the millions of dollars, millions of dollars. Just for the small area of the beaches that we do it's close to half a million dollars. So for the 18 mile stretch, millions and millions dollars a year just to fund the lifeguard program," Bay County Commissioner, Phillip Griffith said. 
 
Right now the City Pier, the County Pier, and Rick Seltzer Park have lifeguards. But local governments cannot use Bed Tax money to pay for the lifeguards on private property. 
 
"There's a lot of people the probably wouldn't want lifeguards behind their property for the risks of liability, they're not sure what it would open up for them in the case that there was a drowning," Griffith said.
 
Executive Director of Bay County TDC, Dan Rowe, said they have also spent their public safety money public awareness of the dangers the Gulf can have,
 
"In addition to the funding that we provide to the beach and the sheriff's office, we also on days of double red flags, we'll fly a banner plane that tells every visitor out there, every beach goer out there the water is closed, stay out of the gulf," he said. 
 
Right now Bay, Walton, and Okaloosa are the only counties in the state allowed to use TDC money for public safety. The rest of Florida is actually prohibited from using TDC dollars for public safety or lifeguards. 

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