PCB Aquatic Center Cuts Hours Despite Resident Opposition

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Residents were upset at Thursday night's Panama City Beach City Council meeting due to changes put in place to shorten hours for the Panama City Beach Aquatic Center at Frank Brown Park.

Councilmen are saying that due to the amount of money it would cost to keep the pool open at it's current hours, the pool would be a financial drain for the city's budget.

Currently the pool is open 13 hours a day, from 6 am to 7 pm, but the new hours that will take effect in early November will open the pool at 11 am, cutting it to an 8 hour day - a change many swimmers say is a grave mistake.

Several residents spoke out against the change many stating that the change wasn't a matter of cutting hours as much as it was marketing.

"In my opinion, the issue is getting more people to the pool and they're not going to come to the pool if it's closed," said Esteban Berenguer.

"At one point, they were talking about as much as they market tournaments that come down here, they were going to - and apparently they haven't helped - market the Aquatic Center," said resident Debbie Sasser. "What ever happened to that?"

Tracy Baranowski said the changes would have a serious effect on her ability to spend time with her children in a routine they've established over the years. "You're taking my Saturday with my kids, you're taking my Sunday with my kids, and you're taking my Monday morning before work or before school."

However, city officials say it isn't that simple.

"Across the board we asked all of our department heads to cut by 3.5% this year, so I had to tell residents of Panama City Beach that we're cutting that firefighter coming to their house, that paramedic EMT by 3.5%, that police officer by 3.5%," said city councilman Keith Curry. "Then I have to at the same time justify spending another $425,000 for a pool that doesn't effect all the residents."

City manager Mario Gisbert brought up several comparisons to other cities. "Everyone around us has winter hours, we're not doing something that's above and beyond what the other municipalities are doing, we're just trying to do something to help keep our budget balanced."

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