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County Adopts Barrier Island Re-entry Program
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By TIR Staff - In the event of a storm threat like that posed initially by Hurricane Charley, more than 40,000 home and business owners on the barrier islands of South Pinellas County could be ordered to evacuate.
When it happens again, Pinellas County will use a new coordinated process to allow residents and non-resident business owners and employees of the barrier island communities to safely re-enter.
By ordinance, the Pinellas County Board of Commissioners has the authority and responsibility to order a mandatory evacuation.
“Once the evacuation order is given and people are gone, the next major task is for people to re-enter,” said Sheriff Bob Gaultieri during a press conference to announce the initiative. His office is responsible for the re-entry process which he characterized as disjointed with cities having different processes and some having none at all.
“Failing to plan is planning to fail,” he said, “so we coordinated with the barrier island cities from Clearwater down to St. Pete Beach and Tierra Verde to put a process in place.” Madeira Beach Mayor Travis Palladeno, Treasure Island Mayor Bob Minning and Tim Landt representing the Tierra Verde Homeowners Association where among those who participated in the press conference.
As a result of the coordinated effort, each community has been issued color coded hang tags. Each household rates two and there are tags for business owners and their employees. “It is important for business owners to be able to get back to the beach communities to look after their businesses and make the fixes that are necessary after a mandatory evacuation.
“It will make it a very orderly process and the thing that we’re most concerned about is that those communities are safe, and we don’t have people who are coming in those committees who don’t belong there,” said the sheriff.
Residents and business owners are considered Level II access. Level I access is reserved primarily for first responders, public works, medical personnel and media.
The county invested more than $40,000 for the program printing 97,000 hang tags and purchasing the scanners. The software was developed in house and provided to the municipalities who are responsible for registration.
Re-entry points in the South Gulf Beaches area include Park Blvd. / Danielle Ct.; Tom Stuart Causeway/ Dueme Road; Treasure Island Causeway (Central Ave./ Sunset Dr. N); Pasadena Ave./Sunset Dr. N.; and 54th Ave. S. College Landings Blvd.
The registration process has been underway since February and the hope is everyone will be registered by the start of the hurricane season on June 1.
Registration contacts by area are:
“On behalf of all the mayors we want to thank the Sheriff for working with us on this,” said Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos at the conference. “This is a system that we hope we never have to use, but our residents need to understand when the order to evacuate comes forth they need to follow it.”
For general information or questions, call the Sheriff Office Public Relations Division at 727-582-6221.