Nanaimo council chooses more expensive 911 contract

NANAIMO – The city has released in-camera documents that show councillors voted to stay with the RCMP for 911 services.

The City of Nanaimo will contract 911 services to the RCMP, despite a much-cheaper alternative.

Nanaimo city councillors voted 7-2 in February to sign a five-year memorandum of understanding with the RCMP to provide 911 services, according to recently released in-camera documents.

The contract will cost the Central Island 911 partnership, which includes Nanaimo, Cowichan Valley Regional District and Nanaimo Regional District, $745,000. Nanaimo’s share will be $335,250, with the potential for additional costs if the RCMP needs to upgrade software – a move that could cost up to a half-million dollars.

According to city staff, Nanaimo had to reconsider how 911 service is provided after the RCMP advised in September the function is no longer part of its core business and would be terminated without a five-year contract and payment of a new management fee. The RCMP had been providing the service since 1994.

The ultimatum had the city – and other B.C. communities whose 911 was handled by the RCMP – mulling alternatives like Vancouver-based E-Comm 911.

The call answer service has already been picked up by regional districts like Fraser-Fort George, Cariboo and Kitimat-Stikine as an alternative to the provincial operational communications centre. It takes the initial call before sending it to local dispatch and is considerably cheaper, according to staff members who favoured the shift to the company.

E-Comm would have cost the partnership $280,000 and the city $126,000, without future software costs or losses to local jobs. Positions would have been cut through attrition.

Councillors George Anderson and Bill McKay, who both voted against going with the RCMP, said the option meant cost savings without risks to service. Money saved could have gone toward other expenses.

But those who decided to go with the status quo had concerns about the effect outsourcing could have on CUPE negotiations, the loss of geographic knowledge and time to consider alternatives.

“Sometimes there’s more to things than just money,” said Coun. Fred Pattje, who voted to stay with the RCMP. “There is no doubt E-Comm is cheaper. The truth of the matter is we are dealing with a union, CUPE, whose members would be affected by it.”

The RCMP officially served notice it would terminate the provision of 911 services last September, although staff members say the ultimatum was first broached a year ago. Nanaimo has always paid for the 911 system, which amounted to $632,064 in 2013, but the RCMP managed it through its operational communications centre at no charge, according to Mike Dietrich, the city’s manager of police support services.

Now the RCMP says the service is not part of its multimillion-dollar policing contract and the city and its partners should pay to have them manage the operation.

With the potential for cost savings, however, Anderson says he feels it would have been a better decision to turn over the service to E-Comm. There would have been no job losses and the city could reduce the costs of its 911 system, he said.

“In our budget process we have talked about spending money wisely and making sure we are providing high levels of service … and in this case, council has made a decision that provides less service for much more money and that’s a concern to me,” Anderson said.

McKay also doesn’t understand why the city didn’t choose cost savings, especially with a purchasing policy that encourages the city to go local only if quality, service and price are the same. In this case, the city could have seen “significant savings” but opted not to go with an outside contract.

“What’s our thinking? If it’s our own employees, even though we can save hundreds by going somewhere else, we will stay?” McKay said.

Coun. Diana Johnstone said she decided to stay with the RCMP to keep jobs local and maintain geographic knowledge, which she saw as a safety issue.

The memorandum of understanding has a one-year exit clause. Staff will review other options.

Just Posted

Black Press file photo
RCMP seek suspect in Vancouver Island-wide crime spree

Crimes stretched from Deep Bay to Qualicum, Ladysmith, Chemainus and Youbou

Things are looking up for Vancouver Island as zero COVID-19 cases have been reported for the first time since October. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Island records zero new COVID-19 cases for the first time since October

For the first time since October, the province is reporting zero new… Continue reading

Tilray announces new line of products offering more inexpensive choices for medical cannabis users. (News Bulletin file photo)
Nanaimo-based Tilray launches new medical cannabis product line

Symbios brand products offered at ‘better price point’ for medical cannabis products

Freighters have becomd abundant in the Trincomali Channel on the east side of Thetis Island.
Nanaimo ponders taking on waste from nearby anchored freighters

Vancouver-based Tymac petitioning the Regional District of Nanaimo to accept waste at its landfill

New Vancouver Island University chancellor Judith Sayers was sworn in at a virtual ceremony June 17. (Submitted photo)
VIU’s new chancellor seeks innovation and equality in post-secondary education

Judith Sayers officially sworn in as Vancouver Island University chancellor

A small pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins pass by close to shore in Campbell River June 16, 2021. Still capture from video courtesy of Kimberly Hart
VIDEO: Dolphin sunset captured from Vancouver Island shore

Spectacular setting for view of travelling pod of Pacific white-sided dolphins

Janice Coady, left, Aimee Chalifoux and Linda Milford at a vigil for Amy Watts on Wednesday, June 16, outside Nanaimo city hall. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

(V.I. Trail/Google Maps)
Now 90% complete, Vancouver Island trail forges new funding parnership

Victoria Foundation takes on Vancouver Island Trail Association; fund valued at $40,000

Karl and Stephanie Ann Johanson were thrilled to spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes in the Panama Flats this month, an unusual appearance for such birds. (Photo by Stephanie Ann Johanson)
WATCH: Sandhill cranes an unusual, joyful sight in South Island parkland

These birds don’t often touch down on their way between northern B.C. and Mexico

Police are asking for public assistance in locating Anthony Graham who has been charged with the murders of Kamloops brothers Carlo and Erick Fryer. (RCMP photo)
2 charged, suspect at large in killings of B.C. brothers linked to gang activity: RCMP

Kamloops brothers Erick and Carlo Fryer were found deceased in May on a remote Okanagan road

Albert Health Minister Tyler Shandro and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney unveil an opening sign after speaking about the Open for Summer Plan and next steps in the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, in Edmonton, Friday, June 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta 1st province in Canada to lift all COVID-19 public health restrictions

70.2% of eligible citizens 12 and older in the province have received a dose of the vaccine

Fraser Health registered nurse Ramn Manan draws a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine into a syringe at a walk-up vaccination clinic at Bear Creek Park, in Surrey, B.C., on Monday, May 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
‘Honour our fathers’ with COVID-19 vaccine protection, B.C. urges

109 new cases Friday, 75 per cent of 12 and up immunized

(Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Trutch Avenue in Chilliwack to be renamed to remove racist taint

New name to have Indigenous significance as Chilliwack takes new step toward reconciliation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is seen during a joint news conference following the EU-Canada Summit, in Brussels, Belgium, Tuesday June 15, 2021. Trudeau says Canada is on track now to have 68 million doses delivered by the end of July, which is more than enough to fully vaccinate all 33.2 million Canadians over the age of 12. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Vaccine deliveries enough to fully vaccinate all eligible Canadians by end of July

Three in four eligible Canadians now have their first dose, nearly one in five fully vaccinated.

Most Read