The plan by five local municipalities to have Surrey handle fire dispatch is a fractured approach to regionalization, says a Sooke councillor.
“I’m very concerned about these municipalities are taking fire dispatch outside the region,” said Coun. Kerrie Reay.
Colwood, Esquimalt, View Royal, North Saanich and Sidney have been paying Saanich to provide fire dispatch service, but last month they rejected higher fees proposed by Saanich and opted instead to have emergency fire dispatch services handled in Surrey.
The five communities started to search for alternatives in late 2017 and early 2018, after Saanich announced it would double its charge in the face of financial pressures. The District of Saanich says it can no longer afford to subsidize service to smaller municipalities.
The five municipalities say they expect to collectively save $1.5 million over five years compared with the rates Saanich proposed.
Capital Regional District Dispatch handles emergency fire dispatch for the Juan de Fuca, Salt Spring Island and Southern Gulf Islands electoral areas and Highlands, Langford, Metchosin and Sooke.
“[Greater Victoria] has aligned our technology on a regional approach and if they’re going to an outside contractor, I have some real concerns about whether there’s a level of risk management assessment done in terms the impact has on the rest of the municipalities,” said Reay, who has sat on CREST board for the last six years.
She noted the entire emergency dispatch system is designed with the local CREST emergency radio system in mind.
“I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the Capital Region to have three or four municipalities go elsewhere. There’s an impact for us,” Reay said.
Sooke Fire Chief Kenn Mount said regional fire officials are examining the issue and regionalization has been leading many discussions.
Coun. Rick Kasper said there are many aspects of the move to Surrey that haven’t been discussed including the compatibility with the Surrey and CREST systems, added costs downstream, and the regional focus.
“I would fight tooth and nail if this municipality was even considering going to Surrey or anywhere else under the guise to save money,” Kasper said. “There’s been a heck of a lot of work and activity and knowledge we’ve gained over the years by working together collectively.
“I don’t want to be open to any outside interest, especially Surrey.”
Last year, Sooke paid $91,257 for CRD Fire Dispatch.
The decision of the five municipalities to have fire dispatch handled in Surrey has no impact on the new $16-million CRD 911 call centre being built in Saanich. That call centre is focused on police dispatch.