PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) — The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners could vote to ease beach restrictions as early as Thursday.
Commissioners discussed the proposition of reopening beaches and private pools during an emergency meeting Monday afternoon.
Commissioner Kathleen Peters said she is in favor of opening the beaches and private pools for exercise and recreational purposes.
“There is police presence on the beaches all the time, and I do believe the citizens in Pinellas County are being responsible and understand the dangers and are taking responsible acts to keep their distance and be safe,” she said.
Both have been off limits for weeks now, and some residents are now calling the county asking when they will reopen. County Administrator Barry Burton says commissioners are now walking a tightrope.
“You know, we’ve got a lot of factors that we have to consider,” he said. “The commissioners were challenging us as staff, the county and the sheriff for us to come up with ideas to where we can begin to have that conversation.”
Burton says county leaders know a majority of citizens will follow the rules and will social distance.
But what about those who don’t?
“So, that was really, I think the beginning of the discussion today,” said Burton. “How do we do this? Respecting the rights of those that are responsible, at the same time making sure we ensure public safety for all of our residents. “
Jeni Bond, who lives in Indian Rocks Beach hopes the county will relax the restrictions.
“I think if everyone can be respectful, we have our distance, maybe don’t have parties on the beach, I think there is no reason why we can’t go out and exercise and just walk and be outside,” said Bond. “It’s so stressful being inside all the time.”
Because of the potential burden that could be placed on law enforcement if beaches were reopened, commissioners agreed to discuss the matter with Sheriff Bob Gualtieri before making a move.
“I think it makes sense,” Commission Vice Chairman Dave Eggers said. “I think the parking spaces that are abundantly available for people from other counties needs to be looked at.”
Eggers suggested leaving the waterfront available, but restrict people from congregating around the beach.
In addition to opening beaches, commissioners will also look at reopening private pools, like the ones at condominiums.
“A lot of senior citizens need the pools,” Peters said. “It helps with their arthritis. It’s good for their exercise.”
Jeni Bond, who lives in Indian Rocks Beach, hopes the county will relax the restrictions.
“I think if everyone can be respectful, we have our distance, maybe don’t have parties on the beach, I think there is no reason why we can’t go out and exercise and just walk and be outside,” she said.
“It’s so stressful being inside all the time.”
A decision is expected Thursday.
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