RDOS dispatches Penticton 911 service for Kelowna’s

Decision to award RDOS 911 service to Kelowna had to be made

It took a lot of political posturing, hand wringing and angst as well as a lengthy discussion that followed one of the longest RDOS board meetings in recent memory, but at the end of it all, the board made its controversial  (not really) decision to sign a five year deal with the City of Kelowna for fire dispatch service.

The decision makes for an uncertain future for Penticton dispatch, who face a revenue loss with the departure of the regional district.

Members in the gallery, who included representatives of the Penticton Firefighters, weren’t happy with the final decision, with one noting that the regional district had the focus of Penticton dispatch. With Kelowna, they are going to be part of a much larger service group.

A Request For Proposal was issued by the regional district in mid April after discussions about current costs were aired in pre budget meetings in 2010. Regional directors wanted costs based on call volume per centages, and after receiving a dispatch service delivery review put together by Planetworks Consulting Corp., also opted to implement the recommendation contained within the report.

Four proponents eventually answered the RFP. After evaluating each service provider, a summary of annual costs was prepared and presented to the board.

The results spoke for themselves. Kelowna came out with a 95.8  per  cent approval with the City of Penticton at the bottom with 64.2 per cent.

The summary of annual costs was even more damning, with Penticton’s costs at a whopping 1.7 million dollars more over the five year term of the agreement.

Politics was evident in the board discussions prior to the vote, with Penticton directors and a few other municipal directors unconvinced that Kelowna could deliver adequate service at such a low price.

Penticton Director John Vassilaki questioned RDOS staffer Dale Kronebusch and Planetworks Consulting Corp. official Dave Mitchell closely about Kelowna’s service offerings.

 

“Will the extra services Penticton supplies be supplied by Kelowna?”

he asked to which Kronebusch replied that “Anything omitted would be included.”

 

Several other directors expressed disbelief that an estimated 4,700 extra calls handled by Penticton would be taken care of by Kelowna for the same price. (Such calls included things like after hours answering services, personnel check in and work alone safety programs, alarm activation receiving, roles in critical incidence  stress debriefing, and daily press releases.)

Still other directors had difficulty coming to terms with the different technology being offered by Kelowna, who will use different communication technologies to communicate with the different departments of the regional district. Fears of communication breakdown and lack of training were also voiced, only to be reassured by consultant Mitchell that Kelowna had all the assets it needed to be successful.

In the end, however, most of the directors had to agree that the price differential was impossible to ignore.

“I’m almost embarrassed at the cost differential between Penticton and the others,” said Naramata Director Tom Chapman.

“I’ve fought against losing Penticton dispatch for years, but I cannot support this. Something is wrong here – I have to support a different proposal.”

“We have a moral obligation to get the maximum bang for the buck,” Area “F” Director Michael Brydon said.

“Kelowna has economies of scale – we are compelled by these forces.”

Keremeos Director Walter Despot commented that his sentiment was to stay local, but the “costs were too much,” a thought also voiced by Osoyoos Director Stu Wells.

“The summary of annual cost numbers are utterly compelling,” offered Summerland Director Gordon Clark. “One can’t sweep it away – this is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed.”

 

A couple of directors felt that accepting Kelowna’s bid could pose a threat to life, questioning the savings should a human life be at stake. The majority of the board disagreed in the weighted vote, however, voting in favour of the staff recommendation.