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Sheriff proposes post-hurricane re-entry plan
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Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri
NORTH REDINGTON BEACH – Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is organizing an effort for bar-coded hangtags for residents to use on their vehicle rear-view mirrors upon re-entry to the beach following a hurricane.

Speaking Feb. 25 before members of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council, Gualtieri said he was putting together the plan to produce a consistent program that his deputies could use post-disaster.

Currently, each community on the beach has its own plan. Some don’t have a plan at all.

“This will just help to make a crazy situation less crazy,” he said. “It’s going to be a mess anyway, so lets make it as orderly a mess as possible.”

Gualtieri said there is currently no consistency on how re-entry would be authorized with the individual residents and the businesses. In some communities, like North Redington Beach, Treasure Island and Belleair Beach, there is a policy in place. Other larger communities, like Clearwater and St. Pete Beach, have nothing.

“This is one of those things that hopefully will never happen and we will never have to deal with,” said Gualtieri. “But what we’ve realized is across the barrier island communities, from Clearwater down to St. Pete Beach, there’s no consistency as to how re-entry would be authorized with the individual residents and the businesses. In some communities they have something in place, some have nothing.”

According to a sheriff’s office count, Gualtieri said there are about 36,000 individual residences on the beaches but that doesn’t include all the nonresident business owners who would need access. There are eight barrier island entry points.

“So what I would like to talk about is a consistent program, which we would issue bar-coded hang tags,” said Gualtieri. “Each city would have its own individual hang tag with its own color coding and the sheriff’s office would be responsible for staffing all the entry points. We would have a record of who’s coming and who’s going, and be able to track it, creating a more orderly process of authorizing re-entry.”

Cost for the program would be about $50,000.

“That would cover the hang tags, bar codes and scanning equipment,” Gualtieri said. “We’re willing to absorb that cost and do it for all the beach communities.”

The sheriff said the individual beach communities would only be responsible for who receives the tags.

“I don’t want to necessarily be in a position of deciding who gets them and who doesn’t,” Gulatieri said. “If you come up with a way, we’ll help you implement it.”

North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen said the BIG-C addressed the issue about eight years ago.

“What we came up with at that time was each city would have color-coded hang tags,” said Queen. “There were a couple of towns that didn’t participate at that time but there were a lot of towns that did. We actually documented who signed up, who got the tag and had a record of everyone who got one.

“I think your idea is a lot better,” Queen said. “I would highly recommend it because every hurricane conference we’ve gone to they say this is the way to go.”

Gualtierri said he wanted to keep the process as simple as possible.

“I don’t know that we need an interlocal agreement,” the sheriff said. “But we’ve got to figure out who’s the point person (in each community) and how do we get this done. How do we get it out to the residents and the business owners to come in and get their hangers.”

Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos asked how the sheriff’s office would keep up with changes in ownership of beach property.

“It would be an on-going process,” Gualtieri said. “That would have to be worked out.”

The sheriff said he would draft an email to Cretekos who would pass it along to BIG-C members and their respective town commissions.

The sheriff said he expected to return to the March 26 BIG-C meeting in Redington Beach to provide more details.

In other action:

• Cretekos reported that the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization and Pinellas Planning Council received the final approval for unification of the two agencies. Florida Gov. Rick Scott approved the MPO’s proposed reapportionment plan to add two new members. The two new MPO members will represent 10 beach communities and six inland communities who have not previously had direct representation on the MPO, bringing the total number of MPO board members to 13, equal to that of the PPC. The BIG-C is expected to name its rep for the beach communities at its April 30 meeting. The new MPO will hold its first meeting May 8.

• Board members voted to move forward on upgrading the BIG-C website using Steve Schwalb from Digital Eel. Since launching 10 years ago, the site has had 176,319 sessions and 379,139 page views at an average of 48 seconds per page view. Most viewers download a variety of PDFs. Schwalb said he could update and give the site a new look starting at $1,299. The final price would be dictated by how many features are added.

• State Rep. Larry Ahern said Scott is proposing $100 million in the 2014-15 Florida budget for the Visit Florida marketing campaign, which is up $40 million from the current budget.

• Indian Shores Councilor Bill Smith reported that the Florida Shore and Beach Preservation Association is pushing for state officials to up the state’s annual contribution for beach nourishment from $30 million to $40 million.

• Indian Shores Mayor Jim Lawrence reported that the town’s new pavilion is almost complete and a ribbon cutting would take place at some point in April.
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