SHALIMAR — The Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center is expected to reopen on Monday with scores of safety measures in place.
The center on Okaloosa Island has been closed since March 17 because of the coronavirus crisis.
As part of the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Department’s re-branding effort this past winter, the name of the facility was changed from the Emerald Coast Convention Center to the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center.
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Since being closed in March, the center has lost about $250,000 in bookings and other revenue, according to TDD Director Jennifer Adams.
On Tuesday, the County Commission unanimously agreed to reopen the center after learning of the various safety measures staff has implemented to protect employees and visitors.
Among other measures, the employees and visitors will be required to wear protective masks, employees will use thermometers to check guests’ temperatures at the door, the number of people allowed in each room will be limited, and restroom doors will be propped open. A restroom sign will direct people to line up in the foyer, at least six feet apart from one another, if the restroom stalls are full.
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Deputy County Administrator of Operations Craig Coffey said the county has purchased additional cleaning equipment for the center, as well as plastic shields for various public areas of the facility.
The first event scheduled for the reopened facility is a June 12 military retirement ceremony with fewer than 100 attendees. Similar-size events will follow for the foreseeable future, according to Adams.
In other business Tuesday, the commission:
• Learned from County Administrator John Hofstad that the coronavirus crisis could lead to an estimated $5 million decrease in county general fund revenue. County officials plan to ask their elected representatives in Tallahassee to help obtain federal recovery funds to offset the loss.
• Agreed, because of recent rainfall, to end the county’s ban on various outdoor burning activities. The ban was in place for two weeks.
Walton County commissioners also lifted that county’s burn ban at their Tuesday meeting. The move came two weeks after commissioners instituted the ban as a wildfire scorched more than 300 acres in South Walton County, destroying more than 30 homes and damaging two dozen other dwellings.
The Mussett Bayou fire was declared 100 percent contained by the Florida Forest Service late last week.