Langford is asking for freedom to negotiate its own 911 fire dispatch contract, after nine years of operating as a group in the Capital Regional District’s (CRD) emergency fire dispatch group, and more than 30 years housing dispatchers in the Langford Fire Hall.
In a letter to the CRD, Mayor Stew Young suggests CRD is pursuing a sole supplier instead of issuing a public request for proposal and he has concerns about the “lack of substantive communication.” He said Langford wants to negotiate its own deal to get the best price for the best service.
After initial conversations about entering directly into a contract with one dispatcher, CRD has since decided to issue public request for proposals, which went out May 7.
Langford’s fire chief Chris Aubrey said the needs of an urban area like Langford are different from other communities in the regional group, so it makes sense they would seek different contracts.
As the largest municipality in the group, Langford’s participation has been financially important. But with the switch to a larger external dispatch operator, a CRD staff report says there will be no financial implications to Langford leaving.
Staff predicted in the report cost savings of up to half, even without Langford.
Langford has mutual aid agreements with Colwood and View Royal which haven’t used the Langford-based dispatch since 2012. Coordination between the separate dispatchers is currently manual which Young said leads to “some delay.” He previously told the Gazette the system works as is, but he thinks using the same dispatcher will make it better.
Staff are recommending the board approve Langford’s request, and have drafted a new bylaw for the remaining communities of Highlands, Metchosin, Sooke, Salt Spring Island, the Southern Gulf Islands and the Juan de Fuca electoral area. To approve at the May 12 meeting, at least two-thirds of the other members would have to assent.
Langford also confirmed its local fire dispatch, with nine people on staff, will close at the end of 2021, since the contract to provide services will not be renewed.
“We need to find a new provider but we also need to find new homes for the staff,” Aubrey said. “They are very professional and capable operators, and I’m really proud of them. This is immensely difficult, but all we know at this time is our centre won’t be operating by the end of the year.”
Until their request to leave the CRD fire dispatch group is approved, Langford cannot issue its own request for proposals, and there is also a possibility that other municipalities in the group will request to leave.
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