BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Some Lynn Haven residents have proposed the idea of disbanding the city’s police force and contracting with the Bay County Sheriff’s Office for law enforcement services.

However, Lynn Haven Mayor Jesse Nelson reiterated his support for Lynn Haven maintaining its own police department.

“When I became mayor, there was some concern and some citizens did reach out to me about dissolving the police department in order to put in a bid for the sheriff’s office,” Nelson said. “However, after looking at certain statistics, although our sheriff’s office does a great job in monitoring the other citizens in which they have oversight, many of our citizens thought that we still wanted to maintain our police department here, and I was in agreement with them.”

50 people are employed at the Lynn Haven Police Department. 38 of which are sworn officers.

Lynn Haven City Manager Vickie Gainer said the department works off of a relatively small $4 million annual budget.

“We are the second largest city in Bay County,” Gainer said. “It just makes more sense to have a police department within a city. We are in the top safest cities. Our response time is 2 minutes or less. And we know that that would put a heavy load on any Bay County Sheriff’s Department at this point and it just makes more sense for the police department to be here.”

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said bringing deputies in to patrol is completely up to the municipality.

“Lynn Haven has an excellent police department,” Ford said. “This works for some communities and doesn’t for others and that’s totally up to the commission and the citizens. And, we’re not looking for more work.”

Sheriff Ford said it costs about $100,000 per deputy assigned to another city, including salary, benefits, car, and equipment.

Communities like Mexico Beach began contracting sheriff’s deputies in 2019 in the midst of their Hurricane Michael rebuild.

“This year, we actually added another deputy, and that was one of the things the sheriff pitched to us in the beginning was we don’t need to start you off with 8 or 10 deputies,” Mexico Beach City Administrator Douglas Baber said. “We’ll start small. And as Mexico Beach rebuilds and grows, we can add it on a little bit at a time so we don’t have to eat the elephant all in one bite.”

Callaway City Manager Ed Cook also said using deputies is a better system for them.

“There’s no reason for us to even consider going back over with what they have and they’re already covering over here in the county so it just makes sense to go ahead and continue on,” Cook said. “We can save taxpayer money and provide excellent service to our residents.”

Callaway has used the sheriff’s office since the early 1990s and currently has 18 deputies patrolling their city.