Hundreds of volunteer firefighters are among those upset over Yarmouth council’s plan to eliminate four dispatchers who look after emergency calls from more than 50,000 people in Digby, Yarmouth, and Shelburne counties.          

Yarmouth volunteer firefighter Jason Saulnier says having local dispatchers is a vital service to southwestern Nova Scotia, and outsourcing could jeopardize the safety of residents.

"You're talking a matter of seconds, not minutes, when you're talking about life and death. In a matter of seconds that definitely does count," explains Saulnier.

Saulnier was among hundreds of residents who gathered at the Yarmouth town hall Thursday night to show support for the area's four emergency dispatchers.

Yarmouth Mayor Pam Mood says the annual cost of the dispatchers is about $260,000, and outsourcing these jobs could save taxpayers thousands of dollars.

"We understand that we can get it for less than a tenth of what we're paying now. So we owe it to the town taxpayers to look at those numbers and see what they are and go forward from there," says Mood.

Critics say outsourcing isn't the solution and that the move would put the safety of residents in jeopardy.

Guy Surette is a councillor for the nearby Municipality of the District of Argyle, N.S. He says outsourced dispatchers may not know the geography of the region.

Surette says he's willing to talk to Yarmouth about shouldering some of the responsibility.

"We're partners with them along with other municipalities in the area. Come and speak to us, ask us what you need, we'll pass it on to our fire departments and our rate payers," says Surette.

Another concern is the ability of local dispatchers to direct firefighters to areas that otherwise may not appear on modern maps.

"I think people don't realize, (a requirement) in one of the towns own job applications was you must be knowledgeable of the geographic area in all three counties," says Lynn Seeley, IAFF Local 2094 president.

"Our families live here too. We would never do anything to jeopardize our families, but the tax payers in the town of Yarmouth are paying 200 times the amount for this service, and that's just not acceptable," says Mayor Mood.

Officials from each municipal jurisdiction in the area are expected to meet soon to iron out a solution.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Suzette Belliveau.