Dispatch still based out of region

Most North Okanagan communities will continue to receive emergency fire dispatch from operators sitting hundreds of kilometres away.

The Regional District of North Okanagan board  is renewing a five-year agreement with the Fraser Valley Regional District to provide fire dispatch to all communities with fire protection outside of Vernon.

“They gave us a price that is totally acceptable and there haven’t been any problems with the service,” said Shirley Fowler, Armstrong director.

“It’s prudent to let them carry on because they have done a good job.”

Under the new contract, Fraser Valley will be paid $35,000 to start and that will climb to $38,500 by the end of the five years. Fraser Valley took on the first contract in 2010.

The City of Vernon, which was passed over for the service four years ago, met with RDNO officials in 2013 in an attempt to win the bid for 2014. However, RDNO staff recommended staying with Fraser Valley.

Opposition to renewing the contract came from Vernon’s four representatives and Kevin Acton, Lumby director.

“I believe the city should have been considered,” said Acton, adding that dispatch operators at the Vernon fire hall are more familiar with locations in the region.

“We would have done our due diligence giving a local authority the opportunity to bid on it.”

Vernon officials have argued that all fire dispatch should be based in the North Okanagan.

“Having separate fire dispatch services for our area, Vernon and the Okanagan Indian Band, dispatched out of our station and the rest of the region dispatched out of Fraser Valley certainly creates operational challenges on types of incidents where our departments overlap,” said Keith Green, Vernon fire chief, in a November interview.

“Large-scale incidents where mutual aid is required presents difficulties when the responding departments don’t share communication systems.  We felt we could have provided a very attractive bid from both a financial perspective and an operational efficiency perspective.”

Fowler believes Vernon may ultimately have an opportunity to pursue the dispatch  service.

“When the contract comes up in five years, we can look at it then,” said Fowler of going through a full tender process.



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