Highlands East is creating a new committee to liaise with its fire department following an ombudsman report on interpersonal issues in the department.

Council voted unanimously at its Feb. 12 meeting to make appointments to the fire committee. The creation of the committee was recommended in an ombudsman report from law firm Ewart O’Dyer submitted Oct. 12.

Acting fire chief Chris Baughman said in a staff report the new committee’s initial objective would be to review the fire department.

“Initially to review the effectiveness, efficiency and economics of the current Highlands East Fire Department and provide recommendations to council moving forward,” Baughman said.

In an email, Baughman said the review will help identify improvements that could be made in service delivery.

“We have five halls with duplicate equipment that respond in three response areas,” he said. “It will also aid in determining if there is any unnecessary duplication of equipment or services attending the same incidents and provide recommendations for improvements.” T

he committee will be comprised of Baughman, the municipality’s five district fire chiefs, Mayor Dave Burton and Coun. Cam McKenzie.

Deputy Mayor Cec Ryall asked about the rationale behind the possible inclusion of rank-and-file firefighters on the committee. Baughman responded the district chiefs were chosen for their experience.

“I wanted those opinions for each of those areas from someone who is been there long enough to understand what their specific needs are for that area,” Baughman said.

The committee follows a motion from council after a closed session at its Nov. 7 meeting to approve the recommendations from the Oct. 12 ombudsman report.

Besides a new committee, the report also recommended a harassment policy be developed by the department to “address interpersonal issues between employees or its representatives outside the workplace.” Baughman said the policy is still a work in progress.

The report also recommended a written warning to an unnamed officer/firefighter dated March 9, 2018 be revoked while a separate warning to an unnamed officer/firefighter dated Aug. 3, 2018 remain.

The final recommendation was for the firefighters involved to be provided a copy of the report with further warning any repeat of matters of subject in the inquiry could result in their termination.

Baughman said the department’s interpersonal issue has been resolved and firefighters are now aware of all current policies and procedures.

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