Wiggins Residents May Choose Between Sheriff and Police Chief

The city of Wiggins is looking for someone to take charge of its law enforcement, but no one is sure if will it be a new police chief or the Stone County sheriff.

On Saturday, Mayor Ferris O'Neal told WLOX news that he plans to present a proposal to the Board of Alderman that combines the city police department with the sheriff's department. The proposal will include statistics showing a consolidation could save the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Some Wiggins residents say if doing away with the city's police department means saving taxpayer money, then they are all for it.

"Consolidating would probably save us a little bit of money, not a whole lot at first but probably in the long run," Wiggins resident Judy Sitano said.

"You have people that sometimes do cause problems but the police are always there," Steve Henderson said. "As far as them being together or apart, I don't really know as long as it saves the tax, that's the important thing."

Sheriff Mike Ballard calculates that Wiggins could save $200,000 a year by combining forces with his department. However, not all Stone County residents are convinced there are enough patrol officers to go around.

"I think they should have the ones in the city and the ones in the county," Stone County resident Rosemary Holloway said. "The county is so widespread that there's not quite enough I don't think to go for both city and county."

Officially, Wiggins is still searching for a new police chief. In fact one alderman told WLOX that the city has stopped taking applications and a committee will soon begin the selection process. Some Wiggins residents say sheriff or chief, they feel they're in good hands.

"It really wouldn't make any difference. I think both of them do a good job so it doesn't bother me," Albert Husband said.

The Board of Alderman meeting where they could discuss the future of law enforcement in Wiggins will be at the City Hall at 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

By Danielle Thomas