Panama City Beach mayor reconsiders emergency meeting on reopening beach

Nathan Cobb
Walton Sun

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PANAMA CITY BEACH — After calling an emergency city council meeting to discuss possibly reopening the beach, Mayor Mike Thomas canceled it hours before it was slated to begin.

The meeting, scheduled to take place Monday at 1 p.m., was first announced Sunday in a post on the Panama City Beach Facebook page. According to Thomas, he called the meeting in light of Tuesday’s Bay County Commission meeting. He added that “for the last couple weeks,” he’s been under the impression that it might be then that the county decides to reopen its portion of the beach. His hope was for the city to get ahead of the ball so that the two would stay on the same page.

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“They were going to do something along the lines of Jacksonville,” Thomas said. “I wanted to have something in place (for the city) when they did theirs, so that one beach doesn’t reopen while another is closed.”

He added that after word got out on Facebook, he heard through the grapevine that other councilmen weren’t ready to reopen the beach.

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“I did not see (anything) on Facebook, I just listened to people,” Thomas said. “I was hearing that there wasn’t any support on either councils to reopen it right now.

“... There wasn’t any point of having a meeting just to get beat,” he added.

According to Valerie Sale, Bay County spokeswoman, commissioners will discuss potentially reopening the beach Tuesday.

Sale also believes that it’s important for PCB and the county to be on the same page regarding this issue.

“The county has not made any decisions regarding beach closure, though we are closely following what is happening and being discussed in other jurisdictions throughout the state,” she wrote in an email Monday. “We are still gathering information to present to the board so that as policy makers they can decide how they wish to proceed.”

For Thomas, the decision to reopen the beach is an easy one and something that’s long overdue.

He added that it doesn’t make much sense for the beach to be closed while other recreation venues, like Frank Brown Park, remain open.

"I think our residents have enough sense to know how to socially distance by now,“ Thomas said. “If we’d open up the beach, I think they’re smart enough to figure out how to get down there and stay away from each other.

“...I think it’s wrong, I think it’s a mistake, but I think I was going to lose four to one and there’s no point in that,” he added. “I can go to the river and cut grass and have just as much success.”