By Teena Monteleone , paNOW
The province is streamlining 911 dispatch services with the creation of a new Crown agency based in Prince Albert.
Since 1997, the City of Prince Albert co-managed provincial emergency communications services through a partnership with the province.
“We started with about 10 to 12 municipalities and over the years that has grown to include over 400. The work we were doing was expanding and we told the province it was kind of getting to be a bit too much for us…and they listened,” Prince Albert city manager, Jim Toye said.
On Thursday, Government Relations Minister Larry Doke announced the creation of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency (SPSA), a new Treasury Board Crown that will be responsible for managing Saskatchewan’s 911 emergency dispatching services, with the exception of Regina and Saskatoon.
“The establishment of the Crown will help us manage this expanding service and give us the financial and administrative tools to make sure we can meet future demand in terms of technology. It also gives us the opportunity to expand in a more business-like manner,” explained Duane McKay, Saskatchewan’s commissioner of emergency management and fire safety.
The provincial emergency communications centre moved from the basement of Prince Albert’s city hall to a Natural Resources Canada facility northwest of the city, the Prince Albert Satellite Station.
“Our arrangement with the federal ministry is really just about facility space,” McKay said. “Over the years, technology here shrunk so there was an empty room in the building and we needed an adequate facility that would meet the high requirements of a dispatch centre and this facility was built for that purpose.”
The new facility will serve as the provincial emergency communications centre for all areas except Regina and Saskatoon, which have their own. The new Treasury Board Crown will report to the Minister of Government Relations and will be fully operational within the next two months. In 2016, emergency dispatch centres across the province received more than 340,000 calls.
EMERGENCY FEES RAISED
Also on Tuesday, Doke announced that 911 emergency service fees, which are applied to cellphone and landlines within the province will be raised. An increase of $0.32 will take effect Jan. 1, 2018.
“We thought this was the proper time to have an adjustment. That money goes directly into the 911 system and its for further expansion and operation,” Doke said.
The last time 911 fees were adjusted was 2010, while the last time call-taking fees for landlines were increased was in 2003.