PRRD to release fire dispatch docs from closed-door meeting

The Peace River Regional District (PRRD) will release documents related to a closed-door decision to outsource fire dispatch services at its next meeting. 

On Jan. 12, the PRRD publicly confirmed its decision to enter a fire dispatch services contract with North Island 9-1-1 after an hour of heated debate. 

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The new contract will see fire dispatch services moved to Vancouver Island. Some worry the out of town operators won’t have the local knowledge to dispatch fire crews to remote areas, putting lives and property at risk. 

Fort St. John, Taylor, Pouce Coupe and Tumbler Ridge voted against the proposal, saying it would cost local jobs and endanger public safety. 

The region received three responses in its request for a new fire dispatcher last year—including North Island, Fort St. John and E-Comm. 

The board approved the five-year, $635,477 contract with the Vancouver Island-based company at a closed meeting Dec. 9, but publicly endorsed the decision last week. Supporters say the new contract will come at a significant costs savings. 

In an interview with the CBC, Board Chair and Area C Director Brad Sperling said documents set to be released at the next board meeting will show why the board opted against the local proposal. 

“Once those reports are public, which should be by the next meeting, I can show exactly where my concerns were, but between now and when those reports are made public, it would just be hearsay,” he said. “I had no problem with Fort St. John’s bid with their price point—I had concerns with some of their levels of service and safety and those questions couldn’t be answered for me.” 

The district’s current policy is to discuss contract negotiations privately and confirm any decision in a public meeting. 

Fort St. John Coun. Byron Stewart criticized the board’s move to make the decision at a closed meeting. 

“This resolution was made in a closed meeting, which meant we as a board of directors could not discuss (this) with our constituents,” Stewart said Jan. 12. The union that represents fire fighters in Fort St. John also came out against the proposal. 

Shortly after the vote, Sperling moved to release the documents in the consent calendar of the next meeting. That meeting is set for Jan. 26.

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