911 dispatch service fix needs second opinion: RDOS

Area F director Michael Brydon said a referendum is not needed to help the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen board make a decision on fixing the 911 dispatch service.

Area leadership wants another opinion before considering a $1.5 million loan to upgrade its 911 service.

For some on the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen board, it is a case of not fixing what's not broken. For other board directors it is imperative to find a way to modernize the area's 911 radio services.

Most of the board though are reluctant to spend $1.5 million to pay for new equipment. They asked for a second opinion at Thursday's RDOS board meeting.

Last year a study found 14 volunteer fire departments sharing the same radio link to dispatch. Two departments trying to communicate on the same radio channel at exactly the same time could mean one call being missed.

Area F director Michael Brydon said one report on the proposed upgrade details a mess of the current system with 911 dispatch equipment being housed in sheds on rural properties.

If the board wanted to borrow $1.5 million it could hold a referendum on the matter. Brydon said the people elected them to lead and it should be up to the board and not a referendum.

Brydon said the voters don't know anything about this complex issue. He said holding a vote on the issue would have the same value as a coin flip.

"They trusted us to make a decision."

Summerland Coun. Bruce Hallquist said his community would be paying more and benefitting less. If the board goes with the $1.5 million upgrade it will be the rural communities and residences who will benefit the most.

"I will be voting against. If Mayor (Janice) Perrino was here she'd be voting against it as well," he said.

Area D director Tom Siddon said his fire chief was "pretty grumpy" about the process.

" 'We don't need all these upgrades because we never (needed) these upgrades in the first place,' " is what the fire chief told Siddon.

Area C director Allan Patton said the firefighters appreciate the current system. They said it is not inferior to the new "Cadillac system."

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Quesnel at squesnel@infotelnews.ca or call 250-488-3065.

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