911 service changes proposed

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is considering changes to its 911 system.

The Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen is considering an upgrade to its 911 system which could leave Summerland paying more for a lower quality of service.

The service change has been suggested to benefit smaller communities within the regional district. The cost of the service change is $.164 million.

Coun. Bruce Hallquist who represents the municipality at the regional district, said the proposal, if approved, would mean Summerland would no longer have a direct 911 emergency link to Kelowna. Instead, the service would be like a party line, serving multiple communities instead of a dedicated line to Summerland.

He added that the change will not affect those calling for 911 service, but it will affect the fire department.

“It’s going to be quite the downgrade in service,” he said. “Why should we be going backward?”

In addition, the municipality would have to pay $230,000 over a 10-year period, or $23,000 a year, as its share of the project.

The service change has been raised at the regional district level because some of the smaller communities have not kept up with improvements to their fire departments. The change would raise the level of communications for them and for the regional district’s fire department, which serves smaller communities and outlying areas.

Municipal administrator Tom Day said municipal representatives met with regional district senior staff recently to outline the fire department’s concerns about the proposed change.

“We’re really pleased with the service right now,” he said. “We don’t want to see it going backwards.”

Hallquist said a second option had also been suggested, but at a higher cost.

To determine if there is voter support to borrow the $1.64 million needed for the service change, the regional district is using the alternate approval process.

If 10 per cent of the voters in the regional district sign a petition opposing the proposed funding, the regional district board would be required to go to a referendum.

There are roughly 68,640 eligible voters in the regional district, so 6,864 signatures would be required.

A copy of the petition will be available at the municipality.