PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — Panama City Beach officials are sending a strong message to those looking to cause trouble on local beaches.
The city passed a new civil emergency ordinance on Thursday, a direct response to last month’s crowds that took over the streets.
Panama City Beach Police arrested 161 people and seized more than 70 guns that weekend. Both law enforcement and city officials agree this is a good move for the city.
The city council unanimously voted yes to the new ordinance which gives City Manager, Drew Whitman, more authority in emergency situations.
Panama City Beach Mayor, Mark Sheldon, said this will help the city act quickly. Typically the city council would have to hold and emergency meeting to put the kind of restrictions outlined in the ordinance into place.
“It could take 4 to 6 hours to put one of those meetings together,” Sheldon said. “This gives the city manager the authority for up to 72 hours. There is a sunset to it. It has a 72 hour timeline for him to be able to make an emergency decision and a declaration for a certain area of town.”
Sheldon said if the city had a similar law in place, the events that took place in March could have looked differently.
“I think we would have been able to act quicker, I think we would have shut down streets and we would have shut down walking,” Sheldon said. “People in these areas they’re walking up and down the streets – it gets closed off. When we call that – when he makes that decision, that declaration it closes those sections of town. That’s it.”
Panama City Beach Police Chief, J.R. Talamantez, shared the same sentiment as Sheldon: time is of the essence.
“Well you know in emergency situations seconds matter,” Talamantez said. “What this ordinance does is it gives us the authority to the city manager to capitalize on those first initial seconds when those decisions need to be made.”
The ordinance gives Whitman the ability to stop alcohol sales, shut down parts of town, enact a curfew and more — but only for 72 hours.
Emergency restrictions would only apply to Panama City Beach limits, not unincorporated parts of the beach. Bay County Commissioners would have to adopt their own ordinance.
The new ordinance goes into effect immediately.