Emer­gency plan needs res­cu­ing

An­gry de­bate over who should lead the project in Spa­niard’s Bay

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS

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.

De­mean­ing ques­tions

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.

Soap opera

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.

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