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RCMP price puts squeeze on North Vancouver Island 911 corporation

North Island 911 Corporation has renewed its agreement with the RCMP to provide emergency dispatch services but significant rate hikes have the corporation looking at other options.

The contract between the two parties expires on March 31 and a new agreement needs to be in place so there is no gap in 911 service.

The agreement is good for five years, however, it includes a provision that allows the agreement to be terminated with 12 months written notice or sooner, if mutually agreed upon.

Jon Ambler, president of North Island 911, said the RCMP wants to increase its staff from four full-time positions to six, effective this August, but 911 corporation convinced the Mounties to hold off.

“North Island 911 Corporation staff and board representatives communicated to the RCMP their concerns regarding the impact the increase will have on the taxpayers of participating regional districts, and have requested a phased in approach,” Ambler said in a release. “RCMP has agreed to maintain the 2014 FTE (full time equivalents) and will implement the increase to six FTE’s effective Jan. 1, 2015. This has resulted in a cost savings to the corporation of $90,338.”

In the meantime, 911 corporation is considering a consultant’s report that outlines different emergency service delivery options for 911.

The report followed an announcement by the RCMP that it would be increasing its emergency dispatch price from $460,000 per year in 2012 to somewhere in the mid seven-hundred thousands for 2014, Ambler said.

He told the Strathcona Regional District board in January that the corporation would be looking at alternatives in order to get the best deal.

“If someone says they could provide the service for half of what the RCMP is offering, we have to look at that,” Ambler said. “If we’re not getting the best deal for the taxpayer, than we’re not doing our job.”

Currently, 9-1-1 operates the RCMP dispatch out of Courtenay and fire dispatch out of Campbell River. Ambulance dispatch is handled in Victoria.

The six options 911 is considering are: continue with the status quo; a single, stand-alone 911 call centre service; ask Campbell River to provide both 911 dispatch as well as fire dispatch; form a commercial relationship with ECCOM to provide 911 dispatch while Campbell River would continue to provide fire dispatch; use ECCOM for both 911 and fire service; or, dissolve the 911 corporation and each regional district creates their own service.

North Island 911 Corporation is expected to share the final consultants report and recommendations regarding the options to regional districts in early April.

Meanwhile, North Island 911 has adopted a $2.3 million operating budget for 2014. A total of $68,467 is used to pay for the agreement with the RCMP to provide call answering for 911 calls as well as for operating and maintaining a fire dispatch and mapping system used for the dispatch of 49 fire departments North Island 911 corporation covers.

Coun. Larry Samson, liaison to the 911 board, said this year’s budget means 911 service will cost Campbell River taxpayers a little more than $1 per month.

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