$24.5-million upgrade of CREST emergency radio approved

The region’s CREST communications system is receiving a $24.5-million upgrade.

Improvements to the Capital Region Emergency Service Telecommunications network will be made by borrowing money through the Municipal Finance Authority.

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CREST shareholders, a group of 20 that includes municipalities and B.C. Transit, voted overwhelmingly in favour of the move.

Created in 2003 at a cost of $17 million, CREST connects about 50 agencies — including police, fire and ambulance — in Greater Victoria’s 13 municipalities. The system has been dogged by complaints since it was established. Victoria police have complained of inadequate coverage and poor downtown reception, leading to having officers patrol in pairs for fear they might not be able to call for backup.

CREST board chairman and Colwood Coun. Gordie Logan said improvements will be done in phases over four years.

“What it will do is increase the reliability, particularly in the core area,” Logan said. “And it allows us to redistribute some of our existing technology to other areas, thereby increasing our coverage.”

The work will start with $10 million worth of infrastructure improvements and replacement next year of radios for emergency personnel in Victoria, Saanich, Oak Bay and Esquimalt.

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