Spaniard’s Bay looks to scrap fire department review
Vote to take place at next council meeting, two weeks after byelection
To the consternation of many who sat through a two-hour public meeting in Spaniard’s Bay, the town council announced last Monday they’re looking at axing a review the fire department.
Deputy mayor Paul Brazil broke the news shortly before the meeting was adjourned, reading from a page-long statement before announcing he was making a notice of motion to rescind a motion adopted last December. That motion said the town would use human resources firm Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette to conduct an independent review of the department.
There was immediate chatter in the audience of about 40 residents after Brazil announced the news, with one person audibly heard uttering the word “Cowards” after the deputy mayor finished speaking.
Earlier in the same meeting Monday night, the chair of the newly-formed Spaniard’s BayTilton Citizens Committee engaged Mayor Tony Menchions on the exact same issue. Robert Lundrigan addressed council at the previous meeting held in March, and did so again Monday, requesting an update on the matters that committee wants council to address.
When pressed specifically about council’s intentions on the review of the fire department, Menchions didn’t show his hand, simply stating the town could move to rescind or move forward with it.
Lundrigan argued the province’s Human Rights Act is pertinent to the town’s situation with the department. He said as a public body with an employer-staff relation with respect to its department, the town has a responsibility to clear the air. Lundrigan also stated it’s a liability issue for council.
Prior to the town adopting the December motion, Coun. Brenda Seymour brought up an allegation of sexual harassment related to her involvement with the fire department. A separate incident brought to light by Seymour made further headlines in January, right around the same time most of the town’s firefighters resigned from the department at a council meeting in solidarity with former council liaison Sheri Collins.
Collins resigned from her seat that same night, and a by- election is being held April 18 to refill it. She accused Seymour of harassing her, an allegation Seymour has denied.
In the prepared statement, Brazil noted Occupation Health and Safety came to council last fall with a list of non-compliance issues related to the department. He said council heard about further issues involving documentation, training, administration and equipment.
In speaking with the town’s legal counsel and officials from the Department of Municipal Affairs and Fire and Emergency Services NL, Brazil said the town felt it was in a position to restructure the department.
As for engaging the HR firm, Brazil said it was felt nothing would be gained from that endeavour to aid the town’s restructuring plans. Knightsbridge Robertson Surrette’s services would reportedly cost $3,500-$4,000.
Brazil went on to note the new fire department is up and running and harassment policies are under review and will soon be adopted by council. The town has also implemented a number of recommendations from the provincial government, the citizens committee and a 2011 report about the department prepared for the town.
The next Spaniard’s Bay council meeting is May 2.