Deputy fire chief Stephen Hanna and fire chief Michael Burgess stand with Saanich Fire Department’s new fire engine in May 2016. Local officials are still assessing the effects of five communities leaving Saanich’s fire dispatch system. Saanich News file photo

Saanich extends fire dispatch agreement with departing communities

Saanich will continue to dispatch fire services to five communities for several months longer after council Monday approved amendments to the existing agreement.

The municipality stands to earn almost $300,000 combined from Colwood, Esquimalt, North Saanich, Sidney and View Royal under the terms of the amendment.

While the quintet has announced plans to contract fire dispatch through the Lower Mainland community of Surrey, the transition has taken longer than anticipated.

The approved amendments extend a temporary service agreement between Saanich and the departing communities until Dec. 31, 2018.

It was scheduled to run until April 30. The new agreement now runs until the end of the year, but allows for earlier termination with a notice of 60 days.

The fees that Saanich starts to earn reflect the higher rates that council had approved in November 2017 – the very same higher rates that the five communities cited in their earlier decision to cut their ties with Saanich and seek a new contract with Surrey said to be cheaper than what Saanich could offer.

Surrey’s annual fees for the five communities would range from $44,000 (North Saanich) to $103,400 (Colwood) for 2018. Saanich’s rate for the five communities range from $91,200 (North Saanich) to $196,200 (Esquimalt).

Surrey’s charge for the five Island communities would rise over the coming years, but remain below Saanich’s rates. Consider the figures. In 2022, Esquimalt would pay Saanich $219,100, Surrey $107,711. Overall, the total difference between Saanich and Surrey would be more than $1.5 million over five years.

Monday’s decision marks the second time Saanich council has extended its temporary arrangement with the five communities, and 2018 budget talks included some discussion about finding ways to stop the pending departure of the communities, as Saanich signalled its willingness to discuss terms with the departing communities.

Mike Burgess, Saanich’s fire chief, said in late March that the five communities had not yet formally announced their decision to depart, and suggested that Saanich could improve its cards by offering them a longer extension under the lower rates.

Saanich, it appears, has not chosen that route.

Saanich’s decision came after Sooke councillors raised concerns about the effects of having Surrey handle fire dispatch for the five Greater Victoria communities.

“I’m very concerned about these municipalities taking fire dispatch outside the region,” said Coun. Kerrie Reay.

She noted among other points that the entire emergency dispatch system is designed with the local CREST emergency radio system in mind.

“[Greater Victoria] has aligned our technology on a regional approach and if they’re going to an outside contractor, I have some real concerns about whether there’s a level of risk management assessment done in terms the impact it has on the rest of the municipalities,” said Reay, who has sat on the CREST board for the last six years. “I don’t think it’s in the best interest of the Capital Region to have three or four municipalities go elsewhere. There’s an impact for us.”

– With files from Kevin Laird

Just Posted

WATCH: Final thoughts before the 75th Swiftsure Yacht Race

Nautical stories and racing strategies of some of the 200 crews heading out to sea Saturday

Teen Victoria brothers receive award for saving family from house fire

Sam and Finn Parker kept cool when their home started to burn and got three people out

Saanich Inlet bridge billion-dollar price tag too expensive says ministry

Malahat alternatives not practical from engineering, budget standpoint

Vehicle crosses into median and flips on Pat Bay Hwy

The vehicle landed upside down in oncoming lanes of traffic on the McKenzie overpass

Woman up on assault, mischief charges in relation to downtown incidents

Traffic cone throwing Wednesday night followed by knife threat on Wharf Street

Oak Bay Local founder looking to launch free monthly baby social

Julie Helms calls on municipality to fund drop-in for young families

B.C. RCMP swoop in to save injured eagle

An eagle with a broken wing now in a recovery facility after RCMP rescue near Bella Coola

Catalyst Paper to sell U.S. mills to Chinese company

Sale will allow company to focus on B.C. interests, says president Ned Dwyer

Bug spray 101: Health Canada wants you to stay bite free

Health Canada is reminding Canadians to use bug spray and other insect repellents safely

Unions reject CP Rail contract offers

Both meeting Friday to determine next steps; 72 hours notice required before strike action.

B.C. jewellers warn public about fake gold scam

‘They are playing on people’s sympathy and their greed’

Former B.C. premier says pot industry about to enter Wild West

Mike Harcourt says Canada is about to enter a new gold rush with many dreaming of striking it rich

Hunt continues for two suspects in Ontario restaurant explosion

The explosion left 15 people injured, but all victims have now been released from hospital

B.C. teacher charged with sexual offences involving two teens

Henry Kang, 50, of Abbotsford charged with two counts each sex assault and sexual exploitation

Most Read