INDIAN ROCKS BEACH – City officials hope that what they call an isolated negative incident will lead to a positive experience for the community during the first Public Safety Day Saturday, Aug. 24, at Kolb Park in Indian Rocks Beach.
The event, which is designed to promote an understanding of the police and fire personnel’s responsibilities, activities and equipment, will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. that day at the park and City Hall, 1507 Bay Palm Blvd.
Plans for the event began taking shape after parents’ complained to the commission June 25 that deputies’ had used strong-arm tactics when they confronted their children after damage had been done to some property of the YMCA of the Suncoast. Some questions also were raised about YMCA’s summer camp program at the park.
The Sheriff’s Office is expected to have a helicopter, K-9 demonstration, rescue vehicle, marine unit, parade car, and utility vehicle. The Pinellas Suncoast Fire and Rescue District will have a fire and rescue truck and rescue craft at the event.
Sheriff’s Office Community Deputy Noel Dunham said at the City Commission meeting Aug. 13 the event will be the first of its kind in the county that “we’ve got this many vehicles from our agency together.”
The city’s public works department is providing a grill for free food, which includes hot dogs and hamburgers. Cpl. Jim Campbell, who has a side business as a disc jockey, will coordinate music. The Sheriff’s Office, the fire district and the city will host the event.
Commissioner Jim Labadie encouraged city officials to publicize the event.
“We certainly want to get a big bang for our buck here,” he said.
Immediately after they were made aware of the incident at Kolb Park, involving unattended equipment, city officials met with the YMCA and they have taken some internal actions to correct the deficiency, said Dean Scharmen, city public services director.
Among statements made following the incident was that there was a lack of supervision of children. However, Scharmen said the YMCA provides a camp director and staff to maintain a 1-15 ratio during camp hours. The ratio is 1-6 during beach activities.
There was also talk about the YMCA monopolizing the park.
“That is not true. They have scheduled park activities,” Scharmen said.
The city has an agreement with the YMCA for a facility usage fee. The YMCA pays the city $2,500 for the 10-week summer camp program. After a YMCA subsidy of $10 and a city subsidy of $15, the total cost for city residents who participate is $75 per week per child.
“I think it’s a great program. I think there was one isolated incident. I know I was out of town when a lot of parents came in and spoke on this and the sheriff became involved. All I can tell you is in the five or six years we have had this program, this is the first time I’ve had to actually sit down with the YMCA. They have been exemplary in their performance,” Scharmen said.
Labadie said he put his trust in Scharmen’s explanation. He and other commissioners expressed strong support for the YMCA program.
“… if it weren’t for that isolated incident, we wouldn’t be having the public safety event because that wouldn’t have never come up,” Commissioner Cookie Kennedy said.
Kennedy said she “loves the YMCA,” saying her son was involved in the organization many years ago.
Commissioner Phil Hanna has fond memories of the YMCA, and “we’re building memories for those children today.
“And if we had more programs like the Y, maybe we wouldn’t have the problems that we have in the country that we do,” he said.
Mayor R.B. Johnson said he is glad the YMCA has a camp program in the city, noting that many children in the community have benefited from it.
He said there was a “glitch that had to be dealt with, and I think it has been dealt with,” he said.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s taken care of and past and we move forward,” Johnson said.