BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — A deadly summer in Panama City Beach forced the city’s council to push for a Beach Safety Ordinance.
That ordinance could be placed into law as early as Thursday, making those who ignore the rules during double red flag conditions pay for their decision.
While Panama City Beach is creating a new ordinance, Bay County has had one in place for years.
“We tried to do the counties with a little addition. We’ve got a problem and we’ve got to fix it,” said Mike Thomas, Panama City Beach Mayor.
The two ordinances are similar in many ways.
Bay County Commission Chairman, Philip ‘Griff’ Griffitts said, “It gives the sheriff’s department the authority to give a verbal warning to stay out of the water and if those individuals do so choose not to pay attention to that warning, it gives the sheriff’s department the ability to arrest them or fine them $500 dollars.”
Panama City Beach’s proposed ordinance is the same as the county when it comes to the police. The new change though is giving the Panama City Beach Fire Department authority as well.
“This way we can cover more ground and get it out. Police are still the only ones that can arrest,” Thomas said.
If a member of fire rescue enforces the law, after a warning, the second offense will result in a $250 dollar fine and the third is $500 dollars.
If the ordinance passes on Thursday night, it will become immediately effective for the police and fire departments.
Both men agree though, this is a move in the right direction to keeping more people safe.
“In some cases, there has to be a little personal responsibility and this, obviously with these ordinances it gives the police the ability and the sheriff’s department and the fire department now over on the beach the ability to try and legislate what is a very poor decision on these individuals parts,” Griffitts said.
Thomas said, “If there aren’t consequences, people will do whatever they want to do and they endanger somebody else when they do this. I’m hoping that the police will enforce this. I hope they use it as a tool to take down some of the problems we’re having.”
Both ordinances exclude those who are on surfboards.
In the city, businesses along the sands will also have to increase their signage during double red flag conditions.
The council will have their second reading of the ordinance and a vote during the regular meeting on Thursday night at 5:00 p.m.
The meetings take place inside the City Hall Annex.