Sackville’s deputy mayor has announced that the town’s fire department is looking forward to welcoming up to five new recruits within the next couple of weeks.
“Over the next six months, the new recruits will be able to train alongside our team of professional firefighters and participate in all functions and fundraisers within the fire department operations,” Andrew Black said during Monday night’s town council meeting.
He also mentioned that during a meeting of the public safety liaison committee, there had been discussion of fire department response times as well as the numbers of volunteer firefighters who respond to emergency calls.
Last month, firefighter Travis Thurston asked whether response times and attendance are discussed with the fire chief at liaison meetings.
Although Thurston did not mention specifics, a number of current and former firefighters have expressed concerns that poor morale and a dwindling number of volunteers have affected the department’s performance.
At last night’s council meeting, Chief Craig Bowser said the fire service now has 34 firefighters, down from its full roster of 43.
He added that if five new recruits are accepted, they would bring the roster up to 39.
The Chief also indicated that he’s satisfied with current response times and attendance based on a wide range of factors including the time of day and whether calls come in on weekends or during the summer when volunteers are on vacation.
“Overall, the response times are relatively OK and fine as we see it, but there are those one-offs where we have to take into consideration that members are volunteers and they do have work and some people do work outside of town as well,” Bowser said.
He added that keeping that bigger picture in mind, Sackville Fire & Rescue can always seek additional help from firefighters in Point de Bute and Dorchester.
Meantime, Councillor Bruce Phinney, who serves on the bylaw liaison committee, told council that the first draft of a new bylaw governing the fire department is now complete and will be reviewed by Chief Bowser, the deputy chief and company officers.
CAO Jamie Burke has suggested previously that the bylaw revision came in response to recommendations from the consultants the town hired last year after Warktimes reported persistent bullying and harassment within the fire department had led to about 17 resignations over five years.
The town has refused to make the Montana consultants’ report and its 20 recommendations public on the grounds that they concern personnel matters.
Town Treasurer Michael Beal says that so far, Montana has been paid $27,548.90 for its workplace assessment of Sackville Fire and Rescue.
The company was also hired to conduct a workplace assessment for all town staff at a cost so far of $27,617.56.