COVID-19 funding will go to parks, public safety

PANAMA CITY BEACH – More than $6 million in public safety and parks projects are on the radar in Panama City Beach.

At a city council meeting on Thursday, officials committed about $6.3 million in COVID-19 relief funding from the American Rescue Plan Act for public safety, parks and recreation projects.

Frank Brown Park, featured April 18, hosts dozens of sports tournaments, concerts, and festivals in Panama City Beach each year.

PCB deputy director Holly White said the city received half the money in September – none of which has been spent – and is expected to receive the rest later this year.

“We don’t necessarily have any specific projects in mind here, but this (commitment) will help us sort of sort that money out as we work through the budget process this summer,” White told the board Thursday.

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The Frank Brown Park Aquatic Center includes an area for children.

She also noted that there is a deadline for using ARPA money.

“We have some time before you have to specifically allocate these funds to real…projects,” White said. “We have to do that by December 2024, and then we have to spend those funds by December 2026.”

Aaron Bessant Park in Panama City Beach is the site of several festivals each year, including the Seabreeze Jazz Festival held here in April.

According to city officials, $2.3 million of ARPA funds will be allocated to public safety, while the remaining $4 million will go to parks and recreation.

While city officials said no specific projects were underway Thursday, White said the public safety portion could be used to build a replacement for Fire Station 32 on Hutchison Boulevard. The station, which officials say is outdated and too small, could be moved to Alf Coleman Road.

It could also be spent on K9 kennels for the Panama City Beach Police Department.

“I’m glad we’re spending the money on recreation and public safety,” Mayor Mark Sheldon said at the meeting. “The new fire station, and obviously the K9 facility, (are things) that we’ve been talking about for a long time, (and) any time we can add to our parks for the community, that’s a home run for me. .”