Recent History – 1999
Oct. 29, 1999, By Mark Nielsen, Daily News Staff
Residents of the Peace River Regional District (PRRD) will be able to dial a single three-digit number to access police, fire, and ambulance by November 2000.
The PRRD board of directors voted unanimously Thursday to bring the emergency 911 service to the area, three years after turning down a similar service because the costs were too high.
“In a sense, what we’ve done is save millions and millions of taxpayers dollars and created some jobs in the Peace,” said Dawson Creek director Blair Lekstrom.
Directors endorsed a plan that calls for a one-time only capital cost of $487,000 and an annual operating cost of $463,500.
That’s much less than what was proposed in October 1996 when the Fraser-Fort George Regional District pitched a system that would have cost the PRRD over $6 million in capital costs and $1 million for operational costs. Moreover, the service would have been based in Prince George, providing absolutely no jobs for the Peace.
Although much cheaper, the version presented Thursday will still cost taxpayers.
Directors approved a five-year plan that, based on the current budget, would mean a tax levy of $10 per $100,000 of assessed value on improvements for residential property in the year 2000, followed by $9 per $100,000 for each year thereafter.
For improvements on commercial property, the rate will be $24.60 per $100,000 for 2000 and $22.05 per $100,000 thereafter.
Directors also had the option of not including a levy from Telus (formerly BC Tel), which will provide the equipment, having users pay it through their phone bills instead.
If they had gone with that option, Telus customers would have paid 23-cents per month per phone line in 2000 and $2.76 per month per phone line thereafter.
But directors agreed that it would place an unfair burden on businesses that had many phone lines and that the second option would help flatten out the levy. “There is only going to be one call from that building, no matter how many lines,” said Fort St. John director Steve Thorlakson.
The rates were set to cover the costs on a yearly basis.
The entire capital cost would be covered in 2000, when the total bill would be $634,250. With only two months left in that year, operating costs would be only $40,000, and the levy from Telus would be $7,250, while another $100,000 would be allocated for the Dawson Creek RCMP’s operational communications centre (OCC) where the dispatch centre will be located.
Thereafter, the annual cost would be $550,500, of which $463,500 would be for the operating cost and $87,000 would go to Telus.
All 911 calls within the PRRD will be directed through the Dawson Creek OCC which will dispatch police vehicles to the location from where the call originated.
Fire fighters will be dispatched from one of two secondary dispatch centres based in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John while ambulances will be dispatched from that service’s provincial dispatch centre in Kamloops.
By the time 911 is in place, work on rural house numbering is to have been completed. Deputy administrator Phil Cove said he will be presenting a proposal to the board at the next meeting after receiving three bids for the work.
Once the numbers are in place, dispatchers will be able to tell where the call is coming from without asking the caller. Cove also said that the technology for locating calls from cellular phones is also being developed.