By Cecilia Nasmith/Today’s Northumberland
Though Northumberland Emergency Planning Manager Ken Stubbings questions changes the City of Peterborough wants as it renews its contract to provide fire-dispatch service, he recommended staying with them at the July county council meeting.
Stubbings explained that the agreement was between Peterborough and the County of Northumberland and it dates back to 2015-2016.
“At that time, a draft agreement was prepared, but it was never approved or formalized back in that time frame between Peterborough and Northumberland County. Dispatch service continued through purchase order agreements up until last year, at which time the five-year term for the draft agreement ended in June of 2020,” he recounted.
“Last year I did approach Peterborough because there was a renewal clause within that contract for another five years if both parties agreed.”
The solicitor for the City of Peterborough drafted an agreement, but it wasn’t a contract between the two parties – it was a multi-party agreement among Peterborough, Northumberland County and all seven of Northumberland’s member municipalities – “which wasn’t really aligned with the process agreed upon in 2015, where member municipalities agreed Northumberland County would be responsible for that dispatch service,” Stubbings pointed out.
“This year we did contact our solicitor, and it became a stalemate where the City of Peterborough did not want to have an agreement with just the county. They wanted a multi-party agreement.”
Stubbings said there are three options.
One – Enter into the multi-party agreement Peterborough is insisting on.
Two – Continue to obtain fire dispatch service from Peterborough through purchase order agreements through the end of this year. At that time, the county steps out of the picture and member municipalities take over their own fire dispatch responsibilities.
Three – Continue through the end of the year with Peterborough via purchase order agreements and, at that time, put out an RFP for a new agency to deliver fire dispatch services.
Stubbings’s recommendation is the first option.
The second option could affect mutual aid and other collaborative operations, as well as bring an unknown impact on cost.
“Back in 2015, one of the purposes of amalgamating under one contract was to improve the pricing as well,” he said.
The third option would take time, and could potentially bring unknown logistics challenges with a new provider – not to mention the chance of a cost increase.
Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Moore expanded on the rationale for recommending the first option.
“The process is working well and, by all indications, it was intended to streamline our processes and find efficiencies and increase collaboration – which it has done on our end.”
Moore believes it’s a matter of administrative preference on the part of the City of Peterborough, but it shouldn’t change anything locally.
“It requires the least amount of effort and potential changes. It keeps things going the same and lets the contract run its course, as it was intended to do. It formalizes the relationship with the City of Peterborough and not make it a battle – just keep things going effectively,” Moore said.
Hamilton Township Councillor Bill Cane spoke from 40 years of experience in community fire service, a background that includes a lot of frustration with communications. The service provided by Peterborough, he said is “by far” the best he has ever experienced.
“They do an absolutely amazing job with our fire department, and I know our fire department would be very upset if they had to go back and figure out how they could communicate with each other,” Cane said.