The Town of Spaniard's Bay has a new complement of volunteer firefighters, although it will be some time before the brigade is ready to respond to emergencies.
The town council welcomed 28 members late last week, with all but seven members having previously served in a fire department that disbanded amid a flurry of controversy — focused largely on sexual harassment, including the playing of a pornographic video at a training session — a month ago.
Coun. Tony Dominix told CBC News Monday that the newly formed brigade includes 21 former members and seven new recruits.
The complement of female members has also grown from one to four.
Former chief Victor Hiscock did not re-apply.
Dominix, who is council's liaison with the fire department, said it will be several weeks before the department is operational, since it will take some time to get formal approval from Fire and Emergency Services.
Plenty of rebuilding necessary
The Conception Bay North town of 2,600 has been without a functioning fire department since most of the membership quit during a heated town council meeting on Jan. 19.
Town councillor Sheri Collins, who was council's liaison with the department, also quit that night over allegations she was being harassed by fellow town councillor and firefighter Brenda Seymour.
Seymour, who has denied the allegation, ignited a national controversy by alleging she had been sexually harassed and mistreated while serving as the lone female on the fire department.
She received an unequivocal apology from the town council a week later, and the town also decided to rebuild the fire department from scratch.
The neighbouring Bay Roberts fire department agreed to respond to emergencies in the interim.
Members of the new fire department assembled for the first time on Thursday.
Turmoil at town office
Spaniard's Bay was delivered another blow two weeks ago when longtime town manager Tony Ryan suddenly quit, citing the stress of the situation as a factor in his decision.
Ryan has since been re-hired by the town to assist with administrative tasks.
Mayor Tony Menchions said last week it's been a difficult situation.
"Overwhelming, to say the least," he said of the difficulties brought on by Ryan's unexpected departure.
The town has issued a formal call for nominations for fill the vacancy on council, and is also actively recruiting for a new town manager.
Failure in leadership blamed for controversy
Meanwhile, a group called Concerned Citizens of Spaniard's Bay has also formed in recent days.
According to its Facebook page, which has swelled to more than 600 members, the group's mandate is to, among other things, help rebuild the town's "sense of community" and ensure municipal leaders are accountable for their decisions.
Robert Lundrigan, a former town councillor and retired educator, is among those who have joined the group.
In a post to the group's Facebook page on Saturday, Lundrigan said the recent controversy is a symptom of a larger problem in the town, and he places much of the blame on the town council.
"The problem, as I see it, is that our town council has been unable to show the required leadership that our residents need and deserve," Lundrigan wrote.
"This absence of leadership has manifested itself on numerous occasions through council's lack of openness and transparency, its lack of public accountability as well as its lack of well-reasoned, wise and timely decision-making."
New fire department
New members of the Spaniard's Bay fire department include the following: Chief Curt Roberts, Gary Gosse, Darrin Smith, Mark Hayward, Corey Mahaney, Boyd Newman, Tyler Fitzgerald, David White, Melvin Galloway, Rodney Ralph, Rodney Yetman, Adam Neil, Martin Seymour, Brenda Seymour, Christopher Smith, Randy Davis, Jason Cumby, Craig Thomas, Tracey Smith, Denise Fitzgerald, Jason Dyke, Stephen Saunders, Bradley Newman, Barney Noseworthy, Tyler Barrett, Granville Newman, Tyler Evans and Kera Roberts.