Manatee County Commissioners approve 11 new lifeguard towers

Manatee County approves eleven new lifeguard towers

SARASOTA (WWSB) - Coquina and Cortez Beach will soon have a new addition - 11 new lifeguard towers.

Manatee County Commissioners approved three new towers to be built on Cortez Beach and the eight existing towers on Coquina will be replaced.

There are three jetties on Cortez Beach, which is why the Chief of Beach Patrol said he needs three new lifeguard towers there. Currently, if there’s an emergency, there’s no one nearby to respond.

Lost children, spinal and leg injuries, and people stuck under the jetties are just a few of the emergency calls to Cortez Beach lifeguards have gotten.

“We want to protect those lives and I’ve been doing this job for 30 years in this County," said Chief Joe Westerman. "I’ve seen quite a bit of incidents that have occurred up there.”

The Chief of the Beach Patrol in Manatee County added that they’re looking to be proactive and get ahead of these 911 calls.

“It’s important not only to our community and our local patrons, but it’s also crucial to the people that come to visit our County and our lovely beaches,” said Chief Westerman.

Nearly three million visitors go to Coquina and Manatee Beaches every year and that doesn’t include those who go to Cortez right next door.

All of this was part of Chief Westerman’s pitch to the County Commission and he finally got what he has been asking for.

The eight lifeguard towers already on Coquina Beach will be upgraded and three new ones will be built to cover each jetty on Cortez Beach.

“Each one of the towers are estimated to be around $126,000 dollars to construct,” said Chief Westerman.

The County will pay for the towers with its 1/2 cent sales tax increase.

Commissioners also agreed to use the general fund for six new lifeguards that will be needed too.

The Chief said that could cost anywhere between $100,000 to $200,000 a year.

“I’m not sure I’m all that happy about it,” said Dale Meyer. The snowbird said he’s not convinced the new towers are worth it.

“Is it really necessary? Is it a good expenditure? Is it a good use of taxpayers money,” questioned Meyer.

But other beachgoers said otherwise.

“Lifeguards, you can see them, they’re right there and they’re providing a public service and protecting the people on the beach,” said Don Schiemann.

The Chief said the funding for all 11 lifeguard towers has already been approved so now, they just need to begin with construction.

He’s hoping that will start in the next month or so, with the best case scenario of it all being complete by July.

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