RDEK board spars over fire dispatch services

Five-year contract with Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services set to expire in December.

Board directors sparred over fire dispatching services and the option renewing a contract with the City of Cranbrook at last week’s Regional District meeting.

The contract, which is handled by the Cranbrook emergency services and dispatches fire services to 14 areas within the RDEK, is set to expire in December.

The board directors discussed the merits of renewing the five-year contract, which would come with a significant cost increase, or going to a ‘Request for Proposal’ (RFP) from other service providers.

Though the RDEK hasn’t moved to the RFP process, there have been expressions of interest from outside dispatching service providers such as North Island 9-1-1, E-Comm 9-1-1 and the City of Surrey Fire Service.

Rob Gay, the chair of the RDEK board, said the intent is to balance the level of service with the cost. While extending the contract with the Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services makes sense, the goal is getting the best service for the best price, he added.

“We understand it’s a new contract, prices have gone up so we expect to pay more—that’s probably natural—but if we don’t reach an agreement with them, I think a fallback position is then we go to the broader market,” Gay said.

The board voted 8-5 in favour of pursing a re-negotiation with Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services. It was a weighted vote, meaning that Cranbrook Mayor Lee Pratt and Cranbrook City Councillor Tom Shypitka were not able to participate.

Some of the pushback was from board directors who felt that the RDEK should go directly into an RFP process.

“I believe that moving directly to an RFP will save time and give us an idea of what the cost is from other outside providers before we’ve just negotiated directly with our current provider,” said Mike Sosnowski, the Area A director.

He also noted that with quotes gathered from an RFP, the RDEK board will have an idea of what the cost will be when Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services comes to the negotiating table.

The renewal of the term-length will be a part of the contract negotiations, according to Wayne Price, the Cranbrook Fire and Emergency Services director. When it comes to what is driving the cost increases, Price cites staffing and technology as the main reasons.

“We staff our dispatch with unionized firefighters, so I would say the staffing rate is high and compared to a conventional dispatch service, we’d be using non-unionized employees at a CUPE rate or something like that,” said Price.

“…As well, we’ve seen a significant increase in hardware costs, the technology is changing all the time. As the hardware costs go up, our software and support costs and our IT costs go up. So it’s kind of across the board increases we’re seeing.”

Price added that the department is in the middle of doing a service review to assess their capabilities and what they can provide to the RDEK.

Over the last five years, the relationship between the two organizations has been without any major conflict, he added.

“I think we have a very good working relationship,” Price said. “I think we’re very transparent—both sides are. We have had some issues, I would say the issues we’ve had haven’t been serious in nature but anytime you are dealing with this type of system, there’s going to be a few issues.”

Hardware and technology was a concern brought up by the RDEK board as a few board directors were concerned that should the Regional District move to an outside provider, it may cause municipalities and rural areas to upgrade equipment.

The RDEK uses a digital system for their dispatching services, while many municipalities and areas within RDEK jurisdiction use analog systems.


Just Posted

Residents line up outside the Vernon Recreation Complex for their COVID-19 vaccine Saturday, June 5. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
No appointments necessary for first dose COVID-19 vaccine: Interior Health

People can just show up at clinics, register on the spot and get the shot

It happened this week in 1914

June 6 -12: Compiled by Dave Humphrey from the archived newspapers held at the Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry on Thursday, June 10, mentioned Grand Forks among two other COVID “hot spots” in B.C. Photo: Screenshot - YouTube COVID-19 BC Update, June 10, 2021
PHO Henry says West Kootenay city is a COVID ‘hot spot’ in B.C.

There are 11 cases of COVID-19 in the Grand Forks local health area, according the BC CDC

Supporters — and shoppers — lined up waiting at the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South, waiting for the doors to open on the store's first day of operations since the pandemic forced its closure. (Photo courtesy Kate Fox)
CHCA Thrift Store re-opens in Cranbrook

After a closure of 15 months, due to the pandemic, the Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary Thrift Store on 8th Avenue South has once again opened its doors for business.

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

Two-year-old Ivy McLeod laughs while playing with Lucky the puppy outside their Chilliwack home on Thursday, June 10, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
VIDEO: B.C. family finds ‘perfect’ puppy with limb difference for 2-year-old Ivy

Ivy has special bond with Lucky the puppy who was also born with limb difference

A million-dollar ticket was sold to an individual in Vernon from the Lotto Max draw Friday, June 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of BCLC)
Lottery ticket worth $1 million sold in Vernon

One lucky individual holds one of 20 tickets worth $1 million from Friday’s Lotto Max draw

“65 years, I’ve carried the stories in my mind and live it every day,” says Jack Kruger. (Athena Bonneau)
‘Maybe this time they will listen’: Survivor shares stories from B.C. residential school

Jack Kruger, living in Syilx territory, wasn’t surprised by news of 215 children’s remains found on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School

A logging truck carries its load down the Elaho Valley near in Squamish, B.C. in this file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chuck Stoody
Squamish Nation calls for old-growth logging moratorium in its territory

The nation says 44% of old-growth forests in its 6,900-square kilometre territory are protected while the rest remain at risk

Flowers and cards are left at a makeshift memorial at a monument outside the former Kamloops Indian Residential School to honour the 215 children whose remains are believed to have been discovered buried near the city in Kamloops, B.C., on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Pick a Sunday:’ Indigenous leaders ask Catholics to stay home, push for apology

Indigenous leaders are calling on Catholics to stand in solidarity with residential school survivors by not attending church services

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Most Read