TDC discusses addition to bed tax

Published: Thursday, July 11, 2013 at 10:11 AM.

The Gulf County Tourist Development Council advisory board on Monday engaged in a spirited and educational discussion about the potential for adding to the county’s bed tax.

The consensus that emerged was that the TDC and Board of County Commissioners must collaborate on how best to address issues of beach driving, trash on the beach, animals not on a leash and moving to a “leave no trace” policy for county beaches.

A proposal to add a fifth cent to the county’s bed tax was discussed at the previous TDC board meeting, and a county budget committee meeting, as a method to increase the presence of officers, specifically Gulf County Sheriff’s Office deputies, on the beaches.

Gulf County Sheriff Mike Harrison said given his budget constraints he could not fund additional patrols on the beach to increase enforcement of existing county ordinances.

County attorney Jeremy Novak said Monday that state law governing such agencies provides the TDC to assist by creating a beach safety program. He said once a plan was in place, it would provide opportunities for the TDC to act.

The framework of that plan, said TDC executive director Jennifer Jenkins, would be to purchase equipment and fund training, including water rescue, for officers to create a combination code enforcement/law enforcement/“brand” ambassador officer, while the GCSO would fund the two additional full-time officers to patrol the beaches.

Tourism is up in Gulf County and trending ahead of neighboring counties of Bay and Walton, Jenkins said. Through June bed tax collections are up 13 percent and every month in the fiscal year has finished in the black save for November 2012.

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