After months of division, Spaniard’s Bay is ready to move on from the controversies that have rocked the community in recent months.
That’s the message Mayor Tony Menchions delivered after the town’s March 14 regular council meeting in the downstairs ballroom of the Municipal Building. After many of the some 60 people who attended the meeting had cleared out, Menchions spoke with an ease that hasn’t been heard in his voice for quite sometime.
“(The meeting) was very, very positive to say the least,” said the mayor. “We’re communicating, we’re all going the same direction and we’re all on the same page. There will be some small bumps here and there, but we’re moving forward.
“I’d say six months or a year from now, we’ll be able to look back and say, ‘this is where we were and this is where we are now.’”
The town has become proactive in address in the need for sensitivity training and updating its sexual harassment policies. Firefighter and town councilor Brenda Seymour went public late last year about instances where she felt sexually harassed while serving on the fire department.
Earlier this year, the majority of the firefighters resigned to support the resignation of Coun. Sheri Collins, who herself alleged Seymour was harassing her.
While these are seen as good steps, many of the positive vibes resonating through the room had to do with the presentation made by the newly formed concerned citizens committee.
Robert Lundrigan, the chair of the committee, spoke at length about the committee’s goals and what they’d like to see council accomplish going forward. He stressed that the committee does not want to replace council, but work with council to overcome the challenges faced by the community.
“Forget personal issues, we want leadership from you and we want you to have a vision moving forward,” said the retired educator. “We certainly want to support you in that.”
His presentation ran for upwards to 35 minutes and touched on a number of issues the committee would like to see addressed. They ranged from providing ample space for the public during meetings, as well as letting the public know about any meetings taking place through various forms of communication.
Lundrigan also listed the need to offer sensitivity training for any member of the community who is interested in it, as well as the completion of the review into the fire department.
“In order to bring closure to this most difficult chapter in our town’s history and to allow us to move forward, we submit that the review must be done and it must include a significant focus on the role of town council in this affair,” he said. “A process that should’ve worked didn’t. We should know what went wrong and we need to ensure people are held accountable or exonerated.”
Apart from Lundrigan’s presentation to council, most of the heavy lifting was done by embattled councillor Seymour.
She tabled a couple of motions regarding to the Spaniard’s Bay fire department, one of which would see the suspension of the council liaison with the brigade. Fire Chief Curt Roberts would report directly to council either in writing or in person.
“That comes from the chief himself,” said Seymour. “(Roberts) wants to eliminate the chances of any communication breakdown.”
She also tabled a motion that would have the town put out a public announcement that would advise people not to obstruct members of the fire department from doing their jobs during an emergency call.
At an earlier meeting this month, some residents expressed their desire to keep Seymour and her husband Martin, also a firefighter, off their property should an emergency occur.
Meanwhile, Spaniard’s Bay hopes to have it fire department up and running either later this week once the Fire and Emergency Services NL signs off on it.
At the tail end of the meeting it was also revealed that town manager Tony Ryan will be returning on a full-time basis.
When the meeting wrapped up, there was a clear sense things were finally starting to look up after all the in fighting that consumed the town since the middle of January.
“We’re after going through one of the hardest times in Spaniard’s Bay’s history and I think we’re doing okay,” said Menchions. “We’re on the other side of the coin and we’re moving forward.”