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DESTIN — With a unanimous vote, the City Council on Monday agreed to move forward with seeking almost $1 million in Okaloosa County bed-tax revenue to pay for various park operation/maintenance expenses and public safety items in fiscal 2021.

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The new budget year starts Oct. 1.

Destin officials are requesting $459,000 for park operation/maintenance items and $528,564 for additional public safety services through the county Sheriff’s Office and Destin Fire Control District, according to city Projects, Grants and Contracts Manager Jeff Cozadd.

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The funding applications, which are due Friday, will be considered by the county Tourist Development Council and then the County Commission.

According to Cozadd, the park operation/maintenance request is a recurring funding request that has been made annually since 2015.

The request for additional public safety services would help the city address the growing number of tourists it sees each year.

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“It is expected that once the COVID19 pandemic has passed, tourists will return to Destin in great numbers,” Destin officials said in their funding request.

The $528,564 being requested to boost public safety would increase the Sheriff’s Office presence on the beach and harbor, increase the number of lifeguards at Norriego Point and expand the lifeguard service at the point to year-round coverage.

According to city information, Destin’s existing law enforcement service agreement with the S.O. is a little more than $2.3 million. The total cost of the contract has risen each year since at least fiscal ’17, when it was a little more than $1.7 million.

“There has been a steady increase from year to year in the contracts that deliver similar amounts of services each year,” city officials said in their funding request. “Due to the rising cost of the existing contract with the Sheriff’s Office, Destin is not financially able to allocate more funding for additional services even though these services are much needed.”

The current contract provides funding for 17 patrol deputies, two investigators, one deputy front desk position and one marine patrol deputy. The city’s funding request for $328,989 would include the expenses of two full-time employees, a marine unit and a fully-equipped beach unit.

“Most beach locations that offer free parking, restrooms, and water access also provide year-round lifeguards and Norriego Point should be no exception,” city officials said in their funding request.

They said the current $100,000 contract with the Destin Fire Control District provides limited lifeguard coverage at Norriego Point and other city beach locations. The funding request for $199,575 would include three year-round lifeguards and needed equipment at the point.

During Monday’s meeting, Councilman Parker Destin indicated that it will be no surprise if the city doesn’t receive the full amount of its requested funding.

Councilman Parker Destin, who represents the city on the TDC, said the county Tourist Development Department projects a decrease of about 35% in its annual bed-tax revenue because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on tourism.

That steep projected revenue shortfall “means cuts to everyone’s requests” for funding for fiscal ’21, he said.

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