PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) — After consecutive days of double red flags and at least 10 lives lost, the Panama City Beach city council asked for an ordinance to be drawn up.
The request took place during the regular meeting on July 11.
The proposed ordinance was heard for the first time at Thursday morning’s council meeting and allowed the council to discuss the provisions, as well as hear input from residents.
“It’s extremely frustrating if you’re trying to enforce some regulation of the state which is don’t get into the water yet you have no tool whatsoever to regulate. You’re hoping on people’s kindness that they’ll come out so being able to give the enforcement aspect behind it so people can realize that there is a penalty if you don’t do this, I think is going to give them a tremendous tool they needed,” said Councilman Hector Solis.
If it passes, the ordinance will allow the police and fire department to issue fines for those who don’t comply to double red flag rules.
“And in those instances where people will not comply on those orders from them (fire department), then it will allow the police department to come in and also fine through a higher level as well as up to an arrest if someone is just not being cooperative,” said Solis.
Both agencies would have to issue a warning first. If someone repeats the offense within 24 hours, following an opportunity to comply with the preceding warning, a fine will be issued.
The second offense issued by police can result in a fine of no more than $500 dollars, up to 60 days in jail or both.
For the fire department, their second offense will result in a $250 dollar fine and the third will be a $500 fine.
The ordinance would also require businesses, hotels, and condos along the beach to increase their signage during the deadly conditions.
Councilman Geoff McConnell said, “We’ve worked with hotel owners, condos, beach services, police, and fire department, the TDC. There’s everybody coming together to make sure we have a safe environment for our visitors.”
If it passes in two weeks, the ordinance would become effective immediately for law enforcement. For businesses along the beach, the ordinance will go into effect next season to allow them plenty of time to get the proper signage required.
Solis said, “and as we say, any life we save is important and if we can just save one life in a season, that’s something and hopefully we can do better with other things.”
The ordinance will exclude individuals who are tethered to a surfboard as well but after comment from multiple residents, the council will be narrowing down the definition before the second reading.
The council will revisit and vote on the ordinance at the next meeting on August 8th.