More than 38,000 voters favor pursuing the consolidation of Bay County local government. This term also brings three new commissioners to the board to discuss this issue.
Consolidation of government cannot happen easily despite the results of a straw ballot in this year's election. George Gainer, the chairman of the Bay County Commission, says the cities must first vote to consolidate, the county can't make the decision alone.
“Each one of those cities would have to agree to be consolidated, otherwise it would be illegal to do it."
County Commissioner elect Bill Dozier says it's too early to decisively talk about consolidation.
“We just need to be very careful how we approach it and not jump into it and regret that we have gone too far before we can turn back.”
Panama City Beach Mayor Lee Sullivan says smaller government allows citizens a louder voice and to take away city governments would only hinder that right.
“The bigger government is, I believe, the less responsive it is.”
But Gainer says the consolidation of services are more likely and already working well.
“We already do police protection in Callaway. We do the permitting on the Beach, wastewater treatment plant is for the cities, and we have so many areas where we can still share the cost of the county services and share the citizens some money.”
But Mayor Sullivan says either way, someone will pay for the services. It will just depend whether you mail the check to the city or the county.
“To suggest that it's more effective, it might not be a bad thing. To suggest that it's less expensive might not necessarily be the case, but clearly the bigger government gets, the nastier it gets, but with 57 percent of the voters wanting to hear something about consolidation, the county will let their voices be heard.”