Okanagan-Similkameen fire dispatch upgrades to move ahead

Less than one per cent of eligible voters put their pens to paper to register opposition against a planned $1.6-million upgrade.

Less than one per cent of eligible voters put their pens to paper to register opposition against a planned $1.6-million upgrade of the regional fire dispatch system.

According to figures received Thursday by the board of the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen, only 63 valid response forms were submitted during the 30-day alternate approval process, which closed July 2.

If 6,884 eligible voters — 10 per cent of the electorate — had registered opposition, the RDOS would have been forced to hold a referendum to get voter consent to borrow the $1.6 million.

Instead, the loan bylaw is expected to be in front of the board for adoption on July 18.

Although directors from Summerland and Osoyoos previously expressed concern about limited benefits they may receive through the upgrade, RDOS board chair Mark Pendergraft said the low voter turnout shows a majority of people support the changes.

“It was a little bit of a surprise, but it is an important thing to have taken care of,” Pendergraft said.

The upgraded system as proposed will group 16 regional fire halls into three zones and keep Penticton’s direct link to dispatch in Kelowna. It also calls for new radio gear in some departments and a new repeater on Okanagan Mountain.

It’s expected to take several years to get the new system operational.