Kelowna has been awarded a five year contract to provide fire dispatch service to all the communities in the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen.
All the Penticton contingent of the regional district board voted against handing the contract to Kelowna, with the assistance of votes from Oliver Mayor Pat Hampson and Princeton Mayor Randy McLean. Still it was not enough.
One of the sticking points for those who voted in favour of awarding the contract to Kelowna was the disparity in bids. Penticton, who currently provides the service, came in with a $2,865,000 bid, while Kelowna came in at the lowest offer from the request for proposals at $1,075,999. Surrey fire service and the Fraser Valley Regional District were also much lower than the Penticton bid.
“There were four contractors here and Penticton has put forward a very high price, an incredibly high price. And, I can tell you every year I have had to vote on this since 2003 I have come out swinging my fist saying there is no way I am going to support moving dispatch out of Penticton. And, in particular, seeing a couple people die out of the Naramata area as a result of Kelowna RCMP dispatch sending people to the wrong address, for example Chute Lake road on the Kelowna side,” said Naramata director Tom Chapman. “I am almost embarrassed, with all due respect, of the cost differential between Penticton and the other three departments.”
Penticton councillor and regional district board member Garry Litke expressed a concern that when the request for proposal was put out the bidders did not find out until later that there was an additional 4,700 extra calls a year and when that information came forward to the bidders their costs didn’t flinch.
“I can’t believe that Kelowna would accept an additional 4,700 calls a year with no increase in cost and can absorb it at the same price. It is difficult to believe,” said Litke.
Concerns about using radio over internet protocol was also raised by Litke.
“My understanding is that in the South Okanagan, in particular the Anarchist, the internet often goes down. So when the internet goes down what happens to your 9-1-1 service? People are going to be left with their lives hanging in the balance while somebody tries to figure out how to re-establish communication,” said Litke. “It all comes down to lives. How much is a life worth? If we are going to start saying that $5 to $6 a household is what the price of a life is well, then I have a problem with that.”
The current fire dispatch contract with Penticton runs out on Dec. 31. For a full story on this see Wednesday’s Penticton Western News or visit www.pentictonwesternnews.com.