Wed Aug 05 05:37:38 PDT 2015
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Okaloosa County Commissioners Discuss Possible Spring Break Regulations
Cristina Pfeffer

This year, spring break in Bay County drew national attention, and not in a good way. That bad publicity prompted both county and city leaders to make some changes. Now, officials in Okaloosa County are looking to do the same thing. "Ultimately the situation in Okaloosa County is not the same as Bay County," said Greg Stewart, Okaloosa County Attorney. "We have different circumstances here, we have a different market here, we have existing regulations on the books that they did not have." Stewart brought forward the same ordinances Bay County and Panama City Beach officials voted on recently; removing alcohol from the sandy beaches during the month of March, and cutting the time bars and clubs can serve alcohol from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m. Some Okaloosa County Commissioners agreed with enacting some more stringent restrictions. Commissioners need to, "...continue to find ways to put teeth into this, and tighten things down, so we can support law enforcement in their efforts," advised Commissioner Carolyn Ketchel. Other commissioners thought too much restriction would have a negative impact on their family-friendly environment. "[A dad's out on the beach with his kids, fishing] and he didn't realize we have an ordinance that he didn't face perhaps when he visited somewhere else recently, and he has a beer and gets slapped with a misdemeanor and that leaves a pretty bad taste in his mouth," said Commissioner Trey Goodwin. In the end, the commission wants to gather more information before making any decisions. They asked county staff to look into ways to budget more money for the sheriff's department, to help with spring break enforcement. They also asked the county attorney to come up with some proposals for reducing the hours of alcohol sales during the month of spring break. The City of Destin and Walton County officials are also discussing any possible changes their agencies want to make in regards to spring break.

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