The partnerships, which have been in the works over the past months, will essentially allow businesses to rent lifeguards to patrol their portion of the coast. City leaders recently finalized a private and public partnership agreement to potentially add more lifeguards to the Beach and improve safety.
In a city council meeting on Thursday, officials formalized an agreement for private and public partnerships between Panama City Beach Fire Rescue’s Beach Safety Division and beachfront businesses.The partnerships, which have been in the works over several months, will essentially let businesses rent lifeguards to patrol their portion of the coast.
Talks about improving beach safety began after PCB had a record number of drownings last year. According to information from the meeting’s agenda, interested businesses will have until Aug. 1 to apply for the program.
“We have to do something,” said Mark Sheldon, mayor of Panama City Beach. “There’s no reason for us to lose lives in the manner that we have in the past.”Sheldon added that the program is especially important since the city can’t fund enough lifeguards to oversee its entire portion of the coast.
“We need corporation, (and) we need the business community to step up,” he said.Councilman Geoff McConnell agreed and added that if the program is to be successful, the city has to take an active stance on trying to recruit businesses.
McConnell suggested the city personally reach out to clients, rather than just advertising the program online.“We’ve already found out ... during COVID at least, people are not paying attention to some of the things that we’re doing,” he said.
Also discussed during the meeting was the possibility of fining those who disregard lifeguards’ orders and get in the water while under double-red flags. Councilman Paul Casto said fines might be the only way to get the point across.
He referenced a recent drowning where the person was asked multiple times to get out of the water.“I just think we could do a better job on that front,” Casto said. “I think we need to step that up (while under) double red flags.″... The reason people are doing it is because they don’t think we’re going to do anything about it,” he added.