11 Drowned in 2008, Why Can't We Get Lifeguards?

Tuesday the Bay County Commissioners “balked” at the idea of giving the City of Panama City Beach $108,000 to fund lifeguards at Rick Seltzer Park because of the expense and liability concerns. Seriously?  I mean, come on.  We went through this last year, all the controversy, and we had 11 tourists that drown here on our beaches!  Pensacola has had 4 drownings in five years, Walton County had none last year, we had 11!  Eleven drownings in one year!  That’s more in one year than we’ve ever had!  How does this not deeply concern those in charge?

Today, a Letter to the Editor was published in the News Herald that’s quite good.  In fact, some of the above was sourced from it.  Read it here.

The writer goes on to say that one could make a worthy argument that safer beaches could, in fact, be used as a marketing ploy to help draw people to our area.  We want a WOW marketing campaign, how’s this for a nugget:  “Feel Safe on Panama City Beach” – that will draw families.  How does the bad press look when potential visitors hear about 11 people drowning in our waters in one year, as opposed to none in our neighboring Walton County, whom I might ad is our direct competition.  Are people scared of coming to our beaches?  Are our beaches deemed dangerous to tourists looking to come to our area?  State your opinion in the comments section.

I understand there are legal ramifications for everything and liability issues with every action we as a community make, but why aren’t we taking tourism and city officials from our neighboring areas out to lunch to pick their brains on how they are doing it.  This isn’t some novel idea that no one’s figured out how to do.  Communities are doing this, communities have been doing this for a long time, there is a formula that works, and we need to employ it in Panama City Beach.

The author of the article reminds us that Chairman Jerry Girvin backed away from supporting this Tuesday after receiving conflicting reports from lawyers concerning liabilities of the County.  What!?  So, find another lawyer, read the precedents he proposes and make a more informed decision.  Again, others are doing this, and the success is obviously apparent.

Commissioner Mike Thomas was concerned about the idea of spending $100k on something that primarily benefited tourists.  Yea, benefitted tourists LIVES.  100 grand to save a few lives is more than worth it – the good publicity we’d get off it alone would make it worth our while, saving lives would be icing on the cake.  Oh, and may I remind you that tourists are the lifeblood of our area?  We have NO industry here except tourism.  We scare them off, we’re screwed.

Now, Back to Regularly Scheduled Bashing

Notes from Today’s TDC Meeting

  • Bed Taxes are up $117,000 thanks to back-taxes being collected.
  • The Circus by the Sea is more than likely coming back.  Maybe it will draw more crowds next year.
  • The CVB has a new interactive marketing manager coming on board.
  • Rowe distributed estimates of costs of strategic plan proposals to board.  I’ll be asking for copies of those to post here soon.
  • Mayor Gayle Oberst explained that Panama City Beach could not use bed taxes to fund lifeguards.  As one Marketing Committee member told me later, it’s a good thing we’re smarter than Walton county on that issue.  I have a lifeguard manifesto brewing; I’m sure it’ll come out any day now.
  • The TDC’s market research firm, Klages, is up for contract renewal, and the board showed concern that the 2008 results were not worth the investment.  Tabled.  Marketing Research, tabled.

Now to the juicy stuff…

Spring Break is heating up quickly… Spring Break funding was tabled after Dan Rowe requested approval on the MTVu plan ($150K CVB, $100K co-op).

Chairman Andy Phillips and Marketing Committee Chairman Buddy Wilkes questioned whether the co-op could really raise $100K. Mr. Rowe believes so; however lodging leaders stepped up quickly and said that because of the exclusive booking deal MTVu has with Student City, they would not participate in that co-op.

Board member Mike Bennett suggests the funding should go into a different Spring Break program.  Dan Rowe suggested that if it’s not MTVu, then put the money in something other than Spring Break.  Jack Bishop said the Klages report proved the CVB should invest the $150,000 into Spring Break. (It’s getting good!)

Folks in the audience suggested that only the Boardwalk benefited from the 2008 Spring Break plan.  (It’s really getting good!)

There was a hint that there may be another Spring Break community workshop. The marketing committee will address the issue before the next TDC meeting on November 6.  (Don’t you think this is going to get good!?)

And More Utter Disregard for the Special Event Policy

The Board unanimously approved 2009 funding for the Panama City Beach Seafood, Wine, & Music Festival.  Wow.  Wasn’t even on the agenda.

Special Event Side Note – Do you realize that 3.25 million dollars worth of lodging has to be brought in to raise $65K in bed taxes?

If PCBSWMF would have reported the need for $65,000 invested in the infrastructure at Frank Brown Park for next year’s event, that would be different.  PCBSWMF Promoter Jack Bishop stated that the event could not serve 30,000 attendees as reported by previous promoters. Hopefully PCBSWMF will use all $65K to improve the infrastructure.  We’ll see.

Speaking of we’ll see, we’ll see the full PCBSWMF report next month.  Hopefully that report will include exactly how and where the 2008 TDC investment was spent.

In the meantime, we sure would like to have other promoters comment here with your thoughts on the TDC’s Special Events “Policy.”

If I misinterpreted anyone’s comments from today’s meeting, please email me at lancaster.kirk@gmail.com, or even better yet, clarify your message right here in the comments section.

9/2/08 TDC/CVB: Budget Approved Without Any Changes

8 of the 9 board members were present for the special meeting that was called last Friday. Absent was Mike Nelson. Public attendance was probably the smallest it has been in the last year. It’s anyone’s guess whether this was due to the unusual scheduling of the meeting, a lack of public interest, or the public just agreeing with the priorities of the TDC/CVB as set out in the budget.

The board unanimously approved the FY 2009 budget which begins on October 1st. The budgets were accepted as proposed by staff and no motions were made suggesting any changes. Final approval will now be up to the Bay County Commission which is scheduled to take up the matter on Setember 16th.

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Swim with a Red Flag, Get a Ticket

“Do you think a ticket system will help deter people from entering dangerous waters on Panama City Beach?” This was the latest pcbdaily poll trying to determine whether this would be an effective deterrence strategy and help reduce drownings in our warm gulf waters.

There wasn’t exactly a colossal difference between those who voted for the ticket strategy and those who voted against officers being empowered to ticket those ignoring the flag warning system. The poll ended with 55% voting for and 45% voting against.

Continue reading “Swim with a Red Flag, Get a Ticket”

Lifeguards on Panama City Beach

The long and short of it is: Should we have lifeguards on our beaches in Panama City Beach? And, if so, why and how will we pay for it?

This comes up almost every year after drownings, and after the tragic deaths of two swimmers over the Memorial Day holiday weekend, it has come up again.

Do we need lifeguards? Could we have prevented the deaths over the weekend if a lifeguard system was in place?

I was listening to the Burnie Thompson Show the other morning and they were discussing that all the beach attendants/vendors are required to be lifeguard certified as part of the permitting process with them running a beach business. It was reported that many of them performed successful rescues over the weekend.

Continue reading “Lifeguards on Panama City Beach”