Leaving local dispatch ‘was a hard decision’
Uncertainty over future and cost factors for seeking dispatch services elsewhere
A municipal unit in the tricounties where some fire departments have parted ways with the Yarmouth dispatch service says it was by no means an easy decision to make.
“We didn’t take it lightly, it was a hard decision,” says David Kendrick, fire service coordinator for the Municipality of Barrington where two departments have left and are now with the Valley Communications dispatch centre.
He says deciding to leave the Yarmouth dispatch centre came down to uncertainty of the service’s future and financial cost.
For the three fire departments in the Municipality of Barrington, the cost to pay for dispatch services for six months would have been $31,800, Kendrick says, which translates to $63,600 for a year.
“We just felt we couldn’t do that, going from $3,600 (annually) to more than $60,000,” he says.
The cost increase stems from a financial formula the Town of Yarmouth sent to the 24 departments served by the dispatch centre based on a five-year average of service usage.
The two departments in the Municipality of Barrington to leave the Yarmouth dispatch service are Barrington/Port Latour and Island/Barrington Passage. Kendrick said last week that originally Woods Harbour/Shag Harbour was going to leave at the same time, but that department decided to wait to see what happens with the Yarmouth dispatch centre.
At an Oct. 24 committee of the whole meeting for Yarmouth town council it was reported to council by the Yarmouth fire chief that seven fire departments in the tri-counties had left the Yarmouth dispatch centre.
The Shelburne department has also left to go to the Valley centre. The Meteghan, Salmon River and Hectanooga fire departments have decided to move to the Digby dispatch services. The Middle/Upper Ohio department in Shelburne moves to Scotia Business Centre dispatch, located in Bridgewater.
“Those are the ones I know of. There might be other ones in the works that I may not know of,” said Chief John Verrall at that meeting. “But officially those are the ones that I have documentation on.”
The future of the local dispatch service has been up in the air since late April when the town issued layoff notices to the four dispatchers, saying it intended to explore other dispatch services that would be less costly to the town. The town says its taxpayers have been paying the bulk of the service and a more spreadout funding formula should be in place if the service is to remain.
In August it put forth a proposal to fire chiefs in Yarmouth, Shelburne and Digby counties served by Yarmouth dispatch proposing a user-pay formula based on a five-year average of usage of the dispatch service. A one-cent area rate was also suggested.
For many fire departments the six-month bill was quite costly compared to what they have been paying – let alone the bill for a year.
The town of Yarmouth’s sixmonth share in the proposed arrangement – providing all 24 fire departments agreed to the proposal – would be $42,140 for six months ($84,280 for the year). The town says it has been paying around $161,000 of the overall $258,000 annual cost of the dispatch service.
Many fire departments put in a request that the town factor in the cost of mutual aid in its proposal – a service the town does not pay for.
Meanwhile, departments who have left Yarmouth dispatch reiterate it wasn’t not an easy choice.
“We didn’t do this lightly. Everybody, I think, wanted to stay with Yarmouth, but for some of us it became evident, after three or four months, that Yarmouth wasn’t going to be there anymore, that’s just the way we felt,” says Kendrick. “It was tough. There are a lot of sentimental feelings. Me personally, I know the dispatchers . . . they’re good people. I hate to see this happen.”