Esquimalt Fire Rescue will begin shopping for a new dispatch service after their contract with the District of Saanich. While their contract expires at the end of 2017, a temporary agreement has been signed running through the end of March. Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS

Saanich doubles price to provide fire dispatch services to Esquimalt

District of Saanich says it can no longer afford to subsidize service to smaller municipality

Esquimalt Fire and Rescue will find itself shopping for a new dispatch program in the new year, after the District of Saanich said continuing to provide that service to the Township would require a 100-per-cent cost increase.

In a letter to the municipality, chief administrative officer Paul Thorkelsson said the District has enjoyed a professional working relationship with Esquimalt for 11 years, providing fire dispatch services. However, Saanich is “significantly subsidizing” the program to the tune of $96,165, or almost 50 per cent of the cost during 2017.

Esquimalt Fire Chief Chris Jancowski said Saanich gave notice it intended to raise the prices, but the number was still a shock.

“We knew we’d see a slight increase, but this is definitely a significant adjustment,” he said. “It was quite alarming and [caught] us off guard.”

There area number ofdispatch centres around B.C., including three in Greater Victoria (Langford, Saanich, Victoria).

Jancowski said one advantage to shopping elsewhere for dispatch services is that with the advance of technology, there are no geographical limitations on the contractor’s location for them to be able to work with Esquimalt.

The Township’s contract with Saanich expires at the end of 2017, as will the contracts the District holds with Colwood, North Saanich, Sidney and View Royal. In the meantime, Esquimalt has signed an extension of service with Saanich, costing just shy of $24,000 for the period from Jan. 1 until March 31, 2018.

“We did a one-year service renewal [in 2017] because there was at that time some conversation of getting everyone at the same level of expiry,” Jancowski explained. However, Oak Bay and Central Saanich won’t expire until some time further into 2018. The extension means there won’t be a gap in customer service or public safety.

In January, the department will be moving forward “very ferociously” to look at options, Jancowski said. “We’ll sit down and talk to other clients and look at market conditions and see if we’re getting good value.”

The conversation will happen collaboratively with council, as is protocol with other fire departments. Other Island dispatch centres are located in Nanaimo and Campbell River and on the mainland in Surrey, Kelowna and Prince George.

There is no word on potential bidders just yet.

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