BAY COUNTY Fla. (WMBB) — The Bay County Tourist Development Council is making strides toward bringing more lifeguards to our beaches.
On Tuesday, the council voted to allocate more money to public safety.
County Commissioner and TDC board member Philip “Griff” Griffitts said this will help provide safety services across the sand.
“We’ve reallocated two more pennies to the 10 percent,” Griffitts said. “So it’s a little over $2.1 million that will be reallocated to public safety.”
Griffitts said before Tuesday’s vote, the TDC has been allocating 10-percent of the first and second cent of bed taxes collected on safety. Now they will double that designating 10-percent of the third and fourth cent of taxes to public safety.
Griffitts said this does not mean there will be lifeguards at every beach access as that would cost around $9 million, but they will try to cover as much ground as possible.
“This will take care of the three or four miles on the east or west end of the beaches that are not in The City of Panama City Beach and the sheriff and the fire department will supplement the lifeguard program that we already have,” Griffitts said.
The money will be split evenly between Panama City Beach, Bay County and The Bay County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Tommy Ford said he already has plans in mind.
“It will allow us to put additional resources and get the necessary equipment both for the law enforcement side and the beach safety side,” Ford said.
Sheriff Ford said this funding will help bring in more deputies on the sand, as well as fire and EMS services.
“A lot of it is bringing in deputies that are off duty and providing them with overtime money but this additional fund will allow us to increase our full-time equivalent out there as well,” Ford said.
Ford said waiting for meeting with the county to discuss the overtime costs for beach safety , but is looking forward to partnerships with the fire and EMS programs.
For now it is important people are paying attention to the flag system and taking responsibility for their own safety.
To receive constant updates on when the flags change text “PCB flags” to 888-777.
The TDC also works hard to market the flags in other ways like banner programs, social media and billboards.