Emergency plan needs rescuing
Angry debate over who should lead the project in Spaniard’s Bay
The latest attempt by the Town of Spaniard’s Bay to prepare a new emergency management plan near- ly required some rescuing of its ownlast week after debate in the council chambers turned hostile.
At the heart of the issue is a view by several members of council that the town should hire an independent person to co-ordinate the plan’s development, a proposal that could have cost taxpayers nearly $1,000.
The Oct. 3 meeting featured an uncomfortable and testy exchange between councillors Sherri Collins and Brenda Seymour, questions about the holding of privileged meetings, and, coincidentally, an emergency call that saw Seymour and fire chief Victor Hiscock rush out of the chamber. Seymour is also a volunteer firefighter.
Collins also moved a motion to have the issue discussed in a privileged meeting, but could not get a seconder.
In the end, a motion to hire a consultant at a rate of $15 per hour to co-ordinate the plan’s development was defeated after a tie vote of 3-3, with Mayor John Drover and councillors Collins — Mayor Drover’s daughter — and Wayne Smith voting in support of the motion. Deputy mayor Tony Menchions and councillors Eric Jewer and Tony Dominix voted against.
Any vote ending in a tie is automatically defeated.
Seymour had to leave the chamber before the vote took place.
Council also voted to have Seymour and Dominix lead the planning process on behalf of council.
The town council has been attempting to start the process of preparing an emergency plan for many months, but has made very little headway. All municipalities have until March 2012 to complete one.
The plan is a document that describes the basic procedures to be used, and the responsi- bilities of the various people, agencies and departments in the event of an emergency.
Councillors Seymour and Dominix offered their services during last week’s meeting, saying they could oversee the plan’s development. Seymour has training in emergency management, while Dominix is an amateur radio operator and is active with Avalon North Wolverines Search and Rescue.
“Any town would be e nv i o u s of the resources we have here to develop our own emergency plan,” Seymour stated.
Seymour and Dominix also noted the importance of working with other agencies, including the police, fire department and t h e re g i o n a l health authority, in developing the plan. But Collins and others preferred to hire a coordinator, a position that touched off some tense exchanges between Collins and Seymour.
“ Wouldn’t you want this town to have the best emergency plan it could possibly have?” Collins asked Seymour. “ Wouldn’t you want somebody with experience to help you?” “Did I say I didn’t?” Seymour answered. “ You didn’t say you did, either,” Collins retorted. “ This is getting silly,” Seymour stated. “ I don’t think an emergency plan is silly,” Collins replied.
Collins also asked: “ Do you really even understand the massive amount of work that’s involved?”
Seymour described Collins’ line of questioning as “demeaning,” and added, “I don’t know how many of these questions I’m going to have to tolerate tonight.”
Dominix suggested the town could find a better use for $1,000, while Seymour said paying somebody to oversee the plan would send a negative message to volunteers in the town.
“ You’re talking about paying somebody $15 an hour to do this when I can probably get, right now, five fairly well trained people to sit on there for nothing. We have firefighters out there who have emergency operation plan management courses done, and they’ll volunteer just the same as they do any other day of the year,” Seymour stated.
Council held a privileged meeting several weeks ago to discuss the matter, but Seymour was unable to attend, and said she was never told that the matter would be on the agenda.
The Compass has learned that Collins wanted the town to hire former firefighter Barb Hutchings to spearhead the report.
Mayor Drover said it’s not hard to under- stand why the plan has not been completed, and described the whole situation as a “soap opera.”
Meanwhile, other towns in the region were able to complete their emergency plans without having to pay a consultant.
Bay Roberts town councillor Melvin Walsh oversaw the plan in his town. Walsh does not have emergency management training, and described the process as “common sense.” He said the Department of Municipal Affairs provides a template that is easy to follow. “ We didn’t spend one cent,” said Walsh. In Carbonear, deputy mayor Ches Ash is in charge of that town’s emergency plan, and said “we have no plans” to hire a consultant.
Seymour emphasized that the plan must be approved by council, Fire and Emergency Services, and Municipal Affairs.