Springfield examines panhandling ordinance

SPRINGFIELD — City officials hope to pass an ordinance that prohibits panhandling in Springfield city limits before the practice becomes a problem.

Commissioners directed the city attorney to draft the ordinance during a workshop meeting Monday, about five hours before a public hearing on the potential expansion of the Panama City Rescue Mission’s Bethel Village program.

No one specifically mentioned Bethel Village, but residents and commissioners in the past have said they are concerned the program could lead to issues in the city similar to what is happening in Panama City.

Commissioner Phillip Dykes, whose house is directly across the street from Bethel Village, distributed several ordinances already in place in other Florida cities and asked that a similar law be enacted in Springfield.

“We need to get something on the table and in the books before it bites us in the back end,” he said.

Dykes said he doesn’t want to base the ordinance off the one under consideration in Panama City because it hasn’t been “court-tested.”

After the meeting, he said he hasn’t noticed a problem with panhandling, but he wants to be prepared.

“If we do it upfront and do it right, we won’t have a problem,” Dykes said.

City managers in Lynn Haven and Callaway said neither city has plans to work on a panhandling ordinance.

Lynn Haven City Manager John Lynch said no one on the commission has mentioned it, and unless and until it becomes a problem, “I don’t anticipate anyone bringing it up.”

In Callaway, an existing ordinance prohibits solicitation on city streets and medians. City Manger Judy Whitis said she isn’t aware of any problems in the city and nothing regarding panhandling is in the works.

A consultant hired by Panama City to discuss the city’s homelessness problems said if the city cracks down on behaviors like panhandling, it could cause the problem to move from city limits and into a neighboring municipality.

Read more: http://www.newsherald.com/articles/springfield-101276-examines-ordinance.html#ixzz1phMW5Jhk

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