Fire departments in Esquimalt, Colwood, View Royal, North Saanich and Sidney have been shopping for a new dispatch service. (Kristyn Anthony/VICTORIA NEWS)

Sidney closer to fire dispatch deal with City of Surrey

Dispatch anticipated to be over budget in 2018; cost savings expected in new deal

Fire dispatch services out of Surrey will cost the Town of Sidney $53,350 this year, or less, as long as the number of calls is below 970 for the rest of the calendar year.

And the Town is hoping that will be the case, as Fire Chief Brett Mikkelsen reports his department is already anticipating it will be over budget for dispatch services this year.

“Every effort will be made to compensate for this overage through the remainder of the department’s operating budget,” Mikkelsen stated in a report to council. “But the long-term savings through the Surrey contract represent good value.”

RELATED: CRD communities pull the plug on Saanich fire dispatch.

Sidney has been, this year, looking at getting its fire dispatch services through the City of Surrey after the District of Saanich raised its rates, following that municipality’s review of the service it provides multiple other communities, like Sidney and North Saanich. Saanich decided to increase its costs to overcome what it termed its subsidizing of dispatch customers. Mikkelsen said in his report that Saanich essentially doubled its rate.

Sidney did agree to stay with Saanich’s dispatch services until it formally decides to switch to the City of Surrey — which is the subject of a vote by Sidney Town council this evening. Sidney’s last five-year contract with Saanich ended June 30, 2017, after which the Town entered into successive short-term deals. This year, that service is expected to cost $6,062 per month — or more than $73,000 for the year.

RELATED: Sparks continue as CRD seeks more info on single regional fire dispatch – again.

Sidney and four other municipalities — North Saanich, Colwood, View Royal and Esquimalt — are looking at dispatch services from Surrey. Mikkelsen stated that Sidney would give Saanich 60 days’ notice once all five are ready to make the change. That means Surrey could start providing fire dispatch services by August 1, or September 1, 2018.

Should the volume of emergency and non-emergency after hours calls jump to between 1,430 and 1,570, it will cost the municipality $86,350 in 2018 (all figures for the rest of this year will be pro-rated). It’s all part of a schedule of annual charges outlined in a proposed service contract with Surrey being voted on tonight in Sidney.

The costs may not be limited to dispatch services, however. The contract also has the five Island municipalities paying a share of an estimated $150,000 to Surrey for initial radio, engineering, paging and records management connectivity associated with the change. Each municipality will be invoiced equally, or via a cost-sharing formula established by the five communities beforehand.

Mikkelsen added even with this added cost, “there will be significant savings for the Town.”

Sidney council is expected to discuss, and vote upon, the contract at tonight’s council meeting, 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

The District of North Saanich will also have the contract on its agenda tonight for a vote. They will pay (pro-rated) $44,000 in 2018 if their call volume is below 800. If it’s between 1,180 and 1,300, they’ll pay $71,500.

For Sidney and North Saanich, the proposed contract calls for estimated rate increases of three per cent each year of a five-year deal.

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