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.”

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