The mayors of Colwood and View Royal say transitioning fire dispatch services from Saanich to Surrey will save taxpayers thousands of dollars over the next five years.
“I think the cost savings speaks for itself. When we’re dealing with public money, it’s not unreasonable to make sure we’re getting the best deal,” Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton said. “We do our best to ensure that tax dollars are being spent wisely.”
During separate council meetings earlier this week, the two councils voted to make the transition in fire dispatch services.
Currently, the District of Saanich provides the services to Colwood, View Royal, North Saanich, Sidney and Esquimalt. However in November Saanich announced significant rate increases, forcing the five communities to put together a joint request for proposals to explore options for alternatives.
Of the three proposals that were submitted – including ones from the District of Saanich, the Capital Regional District/Langford and the City of Surrey – local fire chiefs recommended Surrey’s was the preferred one to provide fire dispatch service for the next five years.
The cost of having the service in Surrey was lower than keeping the service in Saanich. For Colwood, the service would cost a maximum of $103,400 in 2018, $25,400 less than what the cost would have been with Saanich. For View Royal, the cost would be $69,300, $63,500 less compared to Saanich. The cost savings to all five municipalities is roughly $1.5 million over five years.
“Obviously it makes sense,” said View Royal Mayor David Screech, adding it was a shame the municipalities weren’t able to negotiate a deal with Saanich.
“When you look at the $1.5 million savings over five years between the five communities, I don’t know how we could have not moved to Surrey … We know the service is going to be exactly the same as what we’ve been getting with Saanich, so there will be no change in service levels.”
Should residents in Colwood or View Royal call 911, the call goes to a central dispatch where the operator will ask if fire, police or ambulance is needed. If the fire department is needed, the call would be rerouted to the dispatch centre in Surrey, who will relay information to local authorities.
Colwood Coun. Cynthia Day expressed concern during the Monday night meeting over Surrey dispatchers not being familiar with the area, but Fire Chief John Cassidy said it’s all about having updated mapping and databases.
“What it comes down to is mapping and databases, this has been done in the past and I don’t foresee any problems,” he said, noting there is a system currently in place in which addresses and data are updated about every two weeks to 30 days, depending on the volume of development. “It’s just answering phones and transferring data information. There shouldn’t be any issues.”
The Surrey Fire Regional Dispatch Centre currently delivers dispatch services for more than 30 communities around the province such as North and West Vancouver, Squamish Lilloet Regional District and Columbia Shuswap Regional District.