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Argyle council approves fire dispatch agreement

Firefighters responded to a house fire in Pinkney's Point, Yarmouth County, the evening of Feb. 11. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
Firefighters, including ones from the Municipality of Argyle, responded to a house fire in Pinkney's Point, Yarmouth County, the evening of Feb. 11, 2017. TINA COMEAU PHOTO

Municipality will absorb annual cost of dispatch for 7 volunteer fire departments

At its first regular monthly meeting of the new year, Argyle municipal council passed a motion whereby the Municipality of Argyle will pay for the cost of fire dispatch service for its seven volunteer fire departments, with the service to be provided by the Municipality of Digby.

The departments previously used the dispatch service provided by the Town of Yarmouth, but last year the town announced it was looking to lay off its four dispatchers and would be seeking another source to fill its own fire dispatch needs.

According to its website, the Municipality of Digby has owned and operated an emergency dispatch centre – often referred to as Digby dispatch – at the Municipal Airport for the last 19 years.

Efforts to get the Town of Yarmouth to maintain its dispatchers – whose service was used by fire departments throughout the tri-county region (but a service the town said was funded at an unfairly high level by the town’s taxpayers) – eventually failed, making it necessary for fire departments to consider other options.

At its regular council session of Jan. 8, the Municipality of Argyle passed a motion that would have the municipality pay the dispatch fee to Digby on behalf of seven Argyle fire departments, with the municipality absorbing the cost.

The departments are Amirault’s Hill/Hubbard’s Point, East Pubnico and District, Eel Brook and District, Islands and District, Quinan and District, Wedgeport and District and West Pubnico.

Previously, each department had paid $1,200 annually for dispatch service.

The annual cost to the Municipality of Argyle for dispatch service will vary, based on volume, with a typical year expected to cost between $16,000 and $18,000 overall, said Argyle municipal CAO Alain Muise.

(The Lake Vaughan and Kemptville fire departments – whose respective fire districts cover part of the Municipality of Argyle – fall under a similar agreement for the Municipality of Yarmouth.)

In a report to Argyle council, CAO Muise noted that by picking up the cost of dispatch service, the municipality would be relieving all its fire departments of an expense, which in particular would help the smaller departments.

“Dispatch services should not impact whether a fire department can buy bunker gear or pay for a repair,” he wrote.

Absorbing the cost of dispatch service, he said in his report, “is consistent with this council’s history of decision-making for fire service – that is, respecting the service, understanding that our funding needs to increase, respecting that volunteers are delivering that service, and making sure, within our budget constraints, that they can deliver that service safely.”

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