The News-Optimist has learned that Trevor Brice has departed as director of protective services and fire chief in North Battleford.
The news broke not from City Hall, but from North Battleford Firefighters Local 1756, the union representing fulltime firefighters. The union has been in an ongoing dispute with the city over layoffs to fulltime fire department personnel.
“The layoffs have taken effect as of September 1, and the cuts keep coming. We are now down a Fire Chief,” the union stated in a post on Facebook on Friday.
News that the city was looking for a new fire chief was also confirmed at Indeed.com. There, a job posting is listed for Director of Protective Services and Fire Chief – City of North Battleford, dated Sept. 2019.
When asked about Brice's departure by reporters after Monday's council meeting, city manager Randy Patrick said "we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors." There is no word on reasons behind the departure.
Patrick said he hopes to have a new fire chief hired as quickly as possible. In the meantime, Deputy Fire Chief for Operations and Training Lindsay Holm has been elevated to acting fire chief, which means the fire department is going without deputy fire chiefs for the time being.
In related news, Local 1756 also reported on their website that as of Sept. 1 the layoffs have gone through impacting two full-time firefighters. Another two positions were left unfilled for a total staff reduction from 16 to 12.
The firefighters union had also issued another “Call to Action” to members of the public to wear red in support of the firefighters at the Sept. 9 council meeting. As a result, the gallery at Monday's meeting was filled with people dressed in red in support of the firefighters, as they had at the previous council meeting in August. This time, the gallery did include some members of the firefighters union.
Despite the fact that layoffs have happened, Patrick said negotiations with the firefighters union continue to see whether those jobs could still be saved.
"The whole idea here has been for months now is to negotiate and see what we could do about avoiding that," Patrick said. "The process was the union has given notice that we had to do something at some point. We're still negotiating with the union."
Patrick also said they are still trying to set up a time for the next meetings with the union. He also reiterated the city will not negotiate in public.
"We tend not to bargain in the public -- we're keeping this the way it's supposed to be," Patrick said.
This story has been updated.