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Council approves fire dispatch contract with 15-year deal

UPDATE: Approved.

Council is expected to approve Prince Edward County fire dispatch services to the city of St. Catharines for a second time this year at Tuesday’s night’s meeting – this time for a 15-year contract.

The original five-year contract approved in spring was cancelled, stated Fire Chief Chad Brown in his report to council, because the minimum contract length proposed exceeded the time frame provided in the tender.

“The vendors expressed interest in longer agreements for stabilization in their workforce related to increased staffing within their employment agreements,” stated Brown, adding the bidders proposed no price reviews over the 15-year contract related to population or call volume increases.

He is asking council to approve the new $1,415,040 proposal – and states the annual value of the contract falls within the council-approved operating budget.

Coming technology mandated by the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission is to be in place by March 2025. It is designed to enhance calls to 911, but is being outsourced by many municipalities due to high costs to implement and maintain the new service.

The new “next generation 911” (NG911) system is to allow people contacting emergency services to send texts, videos and photos instead of being limited to a phone call.

Quinte West also recently signed a dispatch services agreement with St. Catharines. Belleville Fire and Emergency Services had provided the service to Quinte West since 2020 but is leaving the dispatch business and is to be served by Peterborough next year.

PEC fire also consulted with the Hastings and Prince Edward County Mutual Aid Fire Chiefs regarding dispatch contracts and found St. Catharines was the successful proponent to provide 15-year contracts to all of the fire departments in Hastings County with the exception of Belleville.

“Aligning dispatch services with our neighbouring departments in a common dispatch centre ensures a co-ordinated Mutual Aid system,” stated Brown. “Services from a common vendor will maintain efficient radio communications and co-ordination between departments during emergencies.”

Prince Edward County Fire and Rescue is promoting Test Your Smoke Alarm Day Thursday, Sept. 28. “Being prepared to act in the event of a fire can start with simply pressing the test button and having the confidence that a working smoke alarm is in your home,” said Michael Branscombe, PEC Fire Prevention Officer. “Lives will be saved by regularly testing smoke alarms at least once a month, refreshing batteries at least once a year, and replacing smoke alarms older than 10 years.” Branscombe notes that last year 133 people in Ontario died in fires – the highest number in more than 20 years.

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