Near-disaster prompts HBPD to act

Better to be safe than sorry.

The Holmes Beach Code Enforcement relayed a February 15 outburst of emails from Police Chief Bill Tokajer to registered vacation rental owners and managers in the city asking them to ensure that safety measures of their swimming pool are in place and functional.

The message was sent the day after an incident on February 14 in which a 2-year-old boy nearly drowned after falling into the swimming pool of a vacation home on the 200 block of South Bay Boulevard in Anna Maria.

The mother rescued the child from the pool and Bayflite Air Ambulance Service transported the victim to Johns Hopkins Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

The child’s condition was improving, his prognosis was positive, and the investigation was closed on February 15, according to a report from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. MCSO provides law enforcement to the City of Anna Maria.

The incident may have been the result of a faulty alarm device on the gate leading to the pool, which a sheriff’s deputy said lacked batteries and was misplaced during a property inspection.

The city last inspected the property on Jan. 20, 2021, and conducts annual vacation rental inspections, according to City Clerk LeAnne Addy.

Addy did not say when city staff were expected to complete the 2022 rental housing inspection.

Tokajer’s post referred to the incident, noting that the property’s pool alarm had “malfunctioned or may have been tampered with.”

“The incident is a stark reminder that all doors and windows with direct access to a swimming pool, spa or hot tub should have working alarms,” Tokajer wrote. “Verifying the alarm when code compliance is performed during the semi-annual inspection is not sufficient to ensure that the alarms continue to operate between inspections.”

‘We strongly suggest having a cleaning or building inspector document showing that the alarms were working and working properly before a new tenant checks in,’ he added.

The post also asks rental owners to maintain a working phone line that can be used for emergencies in case a cell phone is unavailable or has no signal.

Tokajer told The Islander on March 3 that he wrote the post in hopes of preventing something similar to the Anna Maria incident on February 14 at Holmes Beach.

Anna Maria Commissioner Robert Kingan told The Islander on March 4 that he would like the town to issue a similar bulletin to its vacation rental owners.

“I think it’s very important to make sure that all of our owners of vacation rentals with a pool, or access to docks or water or any hazardous location, must make sure that all of their systems are up to date and active with batteries in place so we can avoid having incidents like this in the future,” Kingan said.

He added that he would support the exploration of additional policy measures to ensure security measures are maintained in rental housing in the city.

About Jermaine Chase

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