Cost Savings Drive Local Governments Efforts to Form a Council of Governments

The Metropolitan Emergency Communications Consortium (MECC) Regional Council of Governments (RCOG) took steps to formalize their governance structure and transition to a council of governments in an effort to save money and realize greater operational efficiencies for the participating government agencies.

The RCOG is a form of government available under Ohio Revised Code. Founding members of the MECC RCOG – made up of representatives from Mifflin, Truro, Violet, Jefferson and Plain Townships – met today to adopt operating bylaws and unanimously elected Pat Mahaffey, Truro Township as RCOG chair and Trustee Lynn Stewart, Mifflin Township as RCOG vice chair.

Nearly two years ago, MECC members applied for and were awarded a local government innovation fund (LGIF) grant from the Ohio Department of Development, with the aim of working together with other agencies to find ways to save money. Participating agency members conducted research for more than a year, taking trips to other Ohio regions to study previously established RCOGs.

Based on their recommendation, this past summer, the boards of trustees of the consortium voted to establish a governing board with one delegate from each of the founding townships on the board to make decisions. Delegates appointed to the RCOG governing board include Trustee Lynn Stewart, Mifflin Township; Trustee Pat Mahaffey, Truro Township; Director of Operations John Eisel, Violet Township; Trustee Rich Courter, Jefferson Township; and Trustee David Olmstead, Plain Township.

“We are in a new era. The RCOG is the best approach to join us collectively, and to share the decision making authority and fairly represent all participating agencies,” said Pat Mahaffey, MECC COG, Chair. “This change opens the door for shared projects, and enables us to limit our costs and stretch the tax dollars to more efficiently serve our residents.”

Participating agencies anticipate that the RCOG will generate a cost savings for those entities involved. Members will be able to pool their collective buying power on such needs as supplies, equipment, training and uniforms to health care costs.

“Our trustees have had an informal relationship for a decade to share a variety of services, most notably, the Metropolitan Emergency Consortium Communication Center, the emergency dispatching service for a number of area fire departments,” said Mifflin Township Trustee Lynn Stewart. “It saves money, but, more importantly, saves lives, because what we can accomplish as a regional entity outpaces what we can do on our own. This is just a natural evolution of that relationship.”

Plain Township Fire Chief John Hoovler said that over the past decade, area townships have worked together to share a variety of services, anywhere from obtaining grant funding to improve the dispatching technology to equipment on fire vehicles. Over that time, more than $3.6 million in funding has been obtained based on collaboration, in an effort to better serve the hundreds of thousands of residents who benefit.

RCOGs, in their modern form, have been around since the late 1940s, but saw explosive growth during the 1960s and 1970s, driven by federal and state funding incentives and mandates. At present, the National Association of Regional Councils estimates that currently of the 39,000 local, general purpose governments in the United States (counties, cities, townships, towns, villages, boroughs) a total of more than 35,000 are served by COGs.

It is not required that every member of the RCOG participate in every decision to share purchasing or service power. Agencies can pick and choose what ultimately fits the needs of their community, and members can join and leave as needed. The governing board of the RCOG may vote to admit other political subdivisions, and members may withdraw from the organization at any time after it has been a member for two years by submitting its intentions and giving at least ninety days’ written notice.