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Council and fire chief split on communication direction

Chris Marchand

Chris Marchand served as editor of the Dryden Observer from August 2009 to April 2018.
Dryden Fire Chief Ken Kurz gives a staff report to Dryden City Council, Jan. 20. Photo by Chris Marchand

By Chris Marchand

A difference of opinion rose to the fore between the City’s Fire Chief and some members of Dryden City Council over who would be best suited to handle the Dryden Fire Service’s dispatch contract.

Chief Ken Kurz was presenting his recommendation to council to approve $45,000 in Bell Mobility Fleet Net communications equipment when the issue of why the fire dispatch services, formerly provided by the local Dryden Police Service Communications Centre, would appear to be headed the way of Kenora Central Ambulance and Communications Centre, when the city has been dealing closely with the Owen Sound Police Service to establish a police dispatch contract.

Councillor Ken Moss expressed his belief that the police and fire dispatch services should be staged from the same location.

Kurz disagreed strongly, countering with the argument that it would be more advantageous to maintain direct communications linkages with Dryden Fire Service’s mutual aid partners in Oxdrift, Machin and Wabigoon – whose dispatch is already serviced by the Kenora Communications Centre.

Dryden is currently the only community in the region whose Fire Service dispatch is not serviced by the Kenora Communcations Centre.

“When we have an emergency in Dryden I want to make sure that the Dryden Police Service and the Dryden Fire Service are on the same page,” said Councillor Dennis Wintle. “I would prefer that before we approve anything we’ve exhausted every opportunity to work with Owen Sound.”

Kurz said he attempted to obtain a quote for dispatch services from Owen Sound as recently as the end of October and was told at the time that the service could not take on further dispatch duties without upgrades to its infrastructure.

Kurz adds there is the time constraint of the March 31 closure of the Dryden Communications Centre.

“We went to him (Owen Sound Police Chief Bill Sornberger) to see what he could do for the area, but he was unable at that time to quote us,” Kurz said. “I checked with him the other night and there was no change. He was going to send some material when he ready to start expanding dispatch, but March 31 is coming awfully fast and he’s not ready. That leaves us with the source (Kenora) that’s going to be doing every fire service and ambulance base in Northwestern Ontario.”

With Dryden Fire Service sharing communications infrastructure purchased jointly with area partners for over 30 years, Kurz says it would be counter-intuitive to follow the police dispatch to Owen Sound at the loss of direct communication links with Wabigoon, Oxdrift and Machin Fire Halls. He adds direct police/fire communication is less involved and is usually done via cell phone.

“We’re (Dryden, Wabigoon Oxdrift ) all on the same tower, using the same system,” said Kurz. “For us to go to Owen Sound, they would have to get off that tower and purchase a whole new communications system and so would we.”

Councillors advised Kurz to contact Owen Sound again with a request for a proposal for fire dispatching services.

Mayor Craig Nuttall says it was his understanding from Owen Sound’s Chief Sornberger that fire dispatch services for the City of Dryden through Owen Sound was indeed a possibility.

Kurz’s recommendation was deferred pending a report that would better outline the advantages and disadvantages of either course of action and await the results of a request for a proposal from Owen Sound Communications Centre.




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