Panama City Beach Talks Trolley Service, Construction - WMBB News 13 - The Panhandle's News Leader

Panama City Beach Talks Trolley Service, Construction in Second Budget Workshop

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Panama City Beach officials continue to hash out the city's spending for 2014 in the second of three budget workshops.

They're tightening their belt to make way for some major projects.

Wednesday's meeting focused on law enforcement. Chief Drew Whitman took the podium, outline big changes with in the department, namely the department building

The PD is asking for 2.7 million dollars to redo their outdated building, and though it may seem law enforcement is getting a bigger piece of the pie next year, it doesn't come without some cut backs.

Whitman is upping the yearly rotation of cars from 7 years active to 8 years active.

He said this will put more money back in the pot to help pay off the construction job.

Whitman has also cut corners through the use of military surplus.

Their most recent addition is a 31 foot "Contender" vessel that was decommissioned from military use and only cost the department $500 dollars.

Whitman said they have played it close to the vest to welcome much needed construction.

Meanwhile, the Bay County Transportation Planning Organization, or TPO, is requesting more funding from the municipalities that use the Bay Town Trolley service in fiscal year 2014.

The request has drawn mixed reactions county wide, but one city council is happy to oblige.

In 2013, Panama City Beach gave the TPO roughly $29,000 dollars to help fund operations; but now, the TPO needs $6,400 dollars more.

It brings the total to $35,338 dollars they are requesting the beach give in order to keep the wheels on the trolley rolling.

The trolley service faces a 250 thousand dollar shortfall in 2014.

The news wasn't incredibly popular among Bay County Commissioners last week, who questioned the funding hike and the efficiency of a service desiring about $92,000 more in total than 2013.

The Beach says it supports the increase and is happy to fund it, adding that the trolley service is vital to beach employees that often travel from the other side of the bridge.

"The city of Panama City Beach has the greatest ridership of the trolley of all of the other cities, and so we appreciate the fact that those trolleys bring people from other parts of the county to work in our businesses and shop in our stores," said Mayor Gayle Oberst.

"Despite of what I've heard in other municipalities, I wish those guys would come out here to the beach to see who gets off that trolley to work out here and where they're from," said Councilman John Reichard.

Statistics from the TPO show local funding accounted from 6.7 percent of the trolley's operating costs in 2011.

At the beginning of this month, First Transit took over operation under a two year contract.