Single vendor proposed for public South Walton beaches

Published: Oct. 29, 2020 at 8:43 PM CDT
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Walton County has 26 miles of beaches. But only 23 percent, or six miles, of that, is public.

As the county develops, and more people come to visit, many complain, saying there is an overabundance of beach chairs.

One solution code compliance director Tony Cornman gives, is allowing only one vendor on the public beaches.

Beach vendors said, if the county put bids out for a single vendor, it would hurt the economy.

“It’s going to come straight down to the tourist or resident because prices are going to double or triple, whereas the system we have right now can remain low because every single vendor, there’s no discrimination whatsoever, can participate in the managed vendor program as long as they’re a permitted Walton County beach vendor,” said Philip Poundstone, chairman of South Walton Beach Services Association.

While big vendors would be able to compete, small vendors operators, like Kendall Bennett, would be forced out of the market.

“We’d have to shut down,” said Bennett, who operates a beach chair rental company.

Bennett operates her business during the summer and says it pays for her school.

“Right now this is my only source of income, this is what puts me through school, it pays my bills throughout the year when I can’t work because I play a sport, so the money I make running my business through the summer is what gets me through the whole year,” said Bennett.

Cornman’s recommended changes to the beach activities ordinance come after public workshops were held earlier this month, asking Walton County residents what they would like to see change on the beaches.

“I think if the county wants to do one big vendor, basically, they’re going to run into the same problems that the bigger companies run into now,” said Poundstone.

In the report given to commissioners, Cornman also suggests allowing the county to hire seasonal employees to do the vending. but they say, even that would hurt them.

Cornman was not available for an interview at the time of publishing.

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