Wexford Central Dispatch exploring option of consolidating with Meceola Central Dispatch

PARIS — Meceola Consolidated Central Dispatch could one day be taking emergency calls beyond Mecosta and Osceola counties.

Recently, central dispatch Director Laurie Smalla met with Wexford County’s Finance Committee for an informal meeting to discuss the future and possibility of consolidating.

The discussion is in the very early stages and nothing is even close to being a done deal, Smalla said.

“We are just in talks about that possibility,” Smalla said. “Wexford County is exploring all the options. We have the same software, so it’d be a fairly easy transition if we did decide to move forward with this.”

Wexford County Administrator Ken Hinton said consolidation is being looked into as one avenue to save the county money.

“In general, local governments are looking now for more ways to collaborate and be more efficient,” Hinton said. “Here in Northern Michigan, I think we do a pretty good job at that. We are always looking to do things with the lowest cost, but maintaining the highest quality of service.”

Smalla said if the consolidation were to happen, more staff and dispatch positions would have to be added to handle the increased call volume with Wexford County’s 911 calls coming to the Meceola Central Dispatch location in Paris.

Mecosta and Osceola county dispatches were combined in 1993 to form Meceola Consolidated Central Dispatch, which was Michigan’s first consolidated dispatch center, Smalla said.

Part of Smalla’s discussion with the Wexford County Finance Committee focused on how to fund a potential collaboration. Smalla emphasizes Wexford County would have to be financially able to contribute and fund its portion of providing services, so as not to impact the citizens of Mecosta and Osceola counties.

Meceola Central Dispatch is funded solely by a $2.25 surcharge per month per telephone device, while Wexford Central Dispatch has a 42 cents surcharge along with receiving funding from the county’s general fund.

“They fund a lot out of their general budget, so if they decide to do full consolidation they would have to pay an equal share for their citizens and figure out how to become an equal partner,” Smalla said. “They also may just want to contract us and be a customer.”

Whether it’s dispatch centers or fire and police departments, agencies throughout the state are being encouraged to consolidate to be more frugal and efficient, which Smalla sees as a positive.

Partnering with Wexford County for dispatch services would be financially beneficial for Meceola Central Dispatch as well, helping to stabilize funding as more and more people ditch land lines, Smalla said.

“We have to look to the future to be solid financially, and one day consolidating with another county or even more counties is a choice we have to be open to,” Smalla said.