Central Ohio's Metropolitan Emergency Communications Consortium (MECC) emergency-services dispatch center may change its governance and divide responsibility among the six local governments that use it.

Central Ohio's Metropolitan Emergency Communications Consortium (MECC) emergency-services dispatch center may change its governance and divide responsibility among the six local governments that use it.

"It's a consortium," said Mike Grossman, MECC center chief. "But we have put the responsibility on one (entity)."

The MECC was formed in 2004 to dispatch emergency calls for fire departments in Jefferson, Mifflin, Plain, Truro and Violet townships and the city of Whitehall.

The MECC dispatch center is in Mifflin Township. Mifflin Township maintains liability for the MECC dispatch center and MECC employees are considered Mifflin Township employees.

"Now the liability is 100 percent the responsibility of (the) Mifflin Township trustees," Grossman said, "We're looking to spread that out legally over all."

Grossman said the fire chiefs of the MECC members meet monthly. The chiefs suggested the five townships and Whitehall form a council of governments to operate the MECC dispatch center. Through a council of governments, as established by Ohio Revised Code section 167.01, the fire departments could continue working together through the MECC and the council would maintain and manage the dispatch center.

"We'd like to so that soon and we're laying the ground work for more discussion," Grossman said.

Mifflin Township trustee Lynn Stewart said the council of governments is an idea that could be used for the MECC dispatch center and for other shared purchases or services by MECC members.

"It's an opportunity to take the MECC center to the next level and give us the opportunity to add more partners, and add partners for different reasons," Stewart said. "A (council of governments) is a group of governments going together to be able to provide purchasing power and service power."

She said together, the governments could obtain a better price on road salt or computers, for instance.

"Mifflin Township cannot provide the skills, expertise or equipment on our own to the residents and be cost effective," she said. "Together, we have the ability to provide much better services."

Grossman said MECC representatives are expected to visit township trustees and Whitehall City Council in March to present the idea.

Plain Township trustees on Feb. 15 received a brief report about the council of governments from Fire Chief John Hoovler.

Trustee Dave Olmstead said it would be preferable to continue operations without another layer of government but he said it makes sense for all the governments to share responsibility for the dispatch center.

Grossman, who also is the assistant chief of the Mifflin Township Fire Department, said the dispatch center initially was supervised by the six assistant fire chiefs for the MECC members. In 2009, he was put in charge of MECC dispatch-center operations because it required a person to work full time.

The MECC dispatch center has 11 full-time employees and 9 part-time employees. The MECC coverage area includes 120,000 residents and 13 fire stations.