Peace River Regional District directors voted to sign contracts that will see 911 answering and fire dispatch services move to the Lower Mainland.
The move authorizes board chair Brad Sperling and district CAO Chris Cvik to sign a five-year contract with E-Comm, based in Vancouver, to handle primary 911 answering services for the region. The company was the only one to respond to a request for proposals in 2016 and will handle initial 911 calls that are then transferred to fire, police, or ambulance dispatch services depending on the nature of the call.
The district anticipates savings of $1.56 million over five years on that contract, compared to North District RCMP service costs out of Prince George, which have jumped 55 per cent over the last six years.
The transition date is expected May 17, 2017, and regional district staff continue to work with E-Comm and other stakeholders on how to handle oil and gas-related calls, according to a administrative report.
The board also authorized Sperling and Cvik to sign a five-year contract with the North Island 911 Corporation to handle fire dispatch services for the region’s 11 fire departments.
The majority of directors said the district couldn’t afford to wait on the City of Fort St. John to decide whether it will continue providing dispatch services within its boundaries. North Island 9-1-1 is set to take over the service later this fall, and has yet to purchase equipment needed as part of the transition.
The regional district had asked the city for a decision on its plans by Feb. 28, a deadline the city said it would be unable to meet.
“We have an agreement, we have a contract, we should move forward with it and get that agreement in place,” Dawson Creek Mayor Dale Bumstead said.
“If the City of Fort St. John, after they’re finished their deliberations and discussions, and council and their community decides that they’re not going to be a part of it, then we pull those components out. But I don’t think we hold up the agreement with North Island 911 pending that, because that could take a month, two months, or three months, depending on what information they get.”
Fort St. John Couns. Byron Stewart and Gord Klassen voted against signing the contract. The city isn’t trying to hold up the process, Stewart said.
“The timeline just wasn’t going to fit to have a proper conversation with our residents and the importance of having dispatch remain within our community,” he said.
“We’re not trying to hold up the process, it can go forward as you wish. We just don’t know where the wishes of council and the wishes of our community are going to be in regards to the buy-in of this dispatch service, or our own dispatch service, and what that may mean or may not mean for our community.”
North Island 9-1-1 will provide fire dispatch service to the region over five years at a cost of $635,477.
In February, directors voted unanimously to fund a review of the regional district’s closed meeting policies, which some directors say contributed to a backlash against a decision to award the fire dispatch contract to North Island 9-1-1, based on Vancouver Island.