Sidney will be looking elsewhere for fire dispatch service after the District of Saanich recently announced a doubling of their prices. (File)

Sidney to shop around for fire dispatch services

Town signs three-month extension with Saanich after costs expected to double

Sidney will stick with Saanich for fire dispatch services for another three months while the Town looks for alternatives.

Facing an almost doubling of costs associated with having the District of Saanich provide fire emergency dispatch services over the next two years, Sidney is now looking for other service providers to keep prices lower.

However, that will take time. Town staff recommended to council recently that Sidney stay with Saanich for another three months ending March 31, 2018, while alternatives are sought for the long term.

Sidney has contracted with the District of Saanich for fire dispatch service for the last 10 years. A five-year renewal period ended on June 30, 2017, just as Saanich was in the middle of a service review, making another long-term renewal not available.

Last month, Saanich met with the municipalities it provides the service to, outlining a new slate of costs that would be passed on, following their external review.

In a letter to the Town of Sidney, Saanich’s Chief Administrative Officer Paul Thorkelsson said the review fund that the District has been “significantly subsidizing this program at varying degrees for each participating agency.”

Saanich has now decided to charge more for the service, to try to recover its own costs. As a result, other municipalities are pulling out, including Esquimalt.

Sidney may join the ranks of other communities to seek other dispatch services with its recent decision.

Councillor Tim Chad said he believes there is “much discussion going on,” with other municipalities considering their options as well.

Mayor Steve Price, the new chair of the Capital Regional District, noted the CRD “is actively looking at consolidating fire dispatch services into one unit using EComm,” which could aid in any further negotiations with Saanich.

Chad noted that work is yet to come and doesn’t have an impact on Sidney’s immediate need to dispatch services — and its search for a new provider.

Sidney council voted to approve the three-month extension, which will cost the Town $12,475 — equating to what the Town was paying annually for the service, prior to the price change.

Town staff reported that under the new charges by Saanich, Sidney would be paying $20,000 more per year over three years. Staff said they could not support “paying double for a service, with no incremental functionality.”

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