Nanaimo considers cheaper 911 answer service

NANAIMO – The city is no longer prepared to contract 911 call-answer service to the RCMP.

Nanaimo could be the latest customer of E-Comm, the Vancouver-based 911 call-answer service that’s picking up contracts across B.C.

Nanaimo, a member of the multi-government Central Island 911, voted unanimously to contract with E-Comm, a call-answer service that’s now providing service to regions like North Vancouver Island and the Central and Southern Interiors.

Nanaimo and its partners, the Regional District of Nanaimo and Cowichan Valley Regional District, were on track to work with the Nanaimo RCMP until an announcement in March that it would consolidate its operational communications centre in Courtenay. The decision had been made without prior consultation with the city or its partners and despite negotiations underway for a five-year contract to provide 911 call-answer service.

Nanaimo city councillors voted to go with the RCMP despite a cheaper alternative, because of concerns of the effect outsourcing would have on CUPE negotiations and loss of geographic knowledge. The partnership began to reconsider after the RCMP announcement, hiring a consultant to look at four options including Nanaimo FireComm and E-Comm.

E-Comm would see the city lose six CUPE positions, four that are currently filled, but it’s also the cheapest route with a $250,920 cost to the partnership in 2015 with a one-time $16,000 fee. It’s a cost-per-call service that’s expected to rise year-over-year. Nanaimo is responsible to pay 45 per cent.

Fire-Comm was the second lowest expense at a total $281,310 and a $174,266 start up cost while the RCMP cost $719,900.

“The whole dynamics of this have changed significantly simply because of losing the dispatch,” said Mayor Bill McKay, who said employees would lose 90 per cent of the work they had in assisting RCMP dispatchers with the move. There are also cost savings. “It was the right decision to make in my view.”

Councillor Ian Thorpe said E-Comm was the best route for the welfare of the community with too many advantages to ignore. It came down to cost, he told the News Bulletin, also noting the city would share in software upgrades with its partners as opposed to being on the hook if it went with FireComm and that nearly the entire province has already moved to E-Comm.

The Regional District of Nanaimo has already agreed to go the route of E-Comm. Cowichan Valley Regional District is expected to soon make a decision. It’s unknown when the shift would occur, but its anticipated sometime before the RCMP moves operations in November. The city is now working with CUPE to find affected employees alternative jobs within the corporation.




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