Fines fund mobile command centre

Saanich is shopping for a new mobile command unit for police and fire, with the bill footed by money collected from traffic tickets last year.

The municipality’s share of the province’s Strategic Community Investment Fund is just over $1.3 million.

Mayor Frank Leonard, who in 2004 chaired the Union of B.C. Municipalities and fought to have local governments receive all traffic fine money, says a mobile command unit will be useful for daily operations, as well as when a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, hits.

“Our lesson learned in Christchurch, (New Zealand) is we need a mobile command unit. We can’t just rely on the police and fire stations,” Leonard said.

Saanich sent Emergency Program co-ordinator Brock Henson to Christchurch twice in the last year to survey response and recovery efforts following its large earthquakes.

“It’s a lesson learned from almost every disaster that communications is a very significant issue,” Henson said. “And a mobile command unit would go a long way toward ensuring we have many redundancies with respect to allowing emergency personnel to communicate with each other and other responders in a disaster.”

Currently, the Saanich Fire Department uses a converted school bus as its mobile command unit. But the vehicle was purchased nearly two decades ago and Henson says the communications technology is out of date.

Money collected from tickets is pooled by the province annually, then allocated based on the number of officers in a police department. It’s not based on the number of tickets handed out, Leonard said.

“I think it’s a very fair system. We don’t have people saying, ‘the mayor’s balancing the budget by handing out more traffic tickets,’” he said.

The traffic fine money is not considered new money. Estimated fine revenue is budgeted into the municipality’s annual financial plan.