One-Third Of Newark, Ohio Firefighters Work Second Jobs As Firefighters

NEWARK, OH – As the city of Newark debates adding part-time firefighters to the department, data show almost one-third of its members now work as part-time firefighters elsewhere.

More than half of Newark’s firefighters have a second job, taking advantage of a schedule that gives them 48 hours off after 24 hours on the job.

The city administration, city council and firefighters union have been debating the possibility of hiring part-time firefighters to reduce the cost of staffing the city’s four stations.

The city paid $218,686 in overtime through July 4. The original overtime budget was $150,000, but an extra $100,000 has been added.

The second jobs of Newark firefighters include truck driver, college instructor, lawn care, home repairs, gas line repair, musician, custom embroidery, zoning inspector, firefighter, and township fire chief for a few.

There are 41 Newark firefighters with a second job, or 57 percent of the department. And 10 have multiple outside jobs. Twenty-eight have no other job.

Second job no conflict

Newark fire Chief Pat Connor said he does not have any concerns about Newark firefighters working second jobs, as long as it doesn’t interfere with their primary employment.

“This is their own personal business, when they’re not here,” Connor said. “There are a lot of reasons. One is love of the job. You love helping people.”

The chief said second jobs have not interfered with firefighters’ work here. And when firefighters are called in to fill a shift and earn overtime, there are always volunteers. He has never been forced to order someone to work the overtime shift.

“If we go through the (call) list and no one works, we can force someone to work,” Connor said. “Everyone is asked equally. Some don’t take any and some work a ton.

“It’s never a problem filling overtime shifts. There are enough members here. Someone is always (willing). This is their primary job. There is a lot of pride here.”

David McElfresh, president of International Association of Firefighters Local 109, said second jobs do not create a conflict.

“Employees know their scheduled days to work,” McElfresh said. “If they get called in to work overtime on their scheduled day off, I assume they would either call off at their part-time job or pass on the overtime.”

Extra skills beneficial

Even the chief has a second job: Connor works for Air Evac, which flies injured patients to Columbus hospitals.

“The fire department is not a job — it’s a vocation,” Connor said. “It’s something I love to do, and it’s a very rewarding job. I enjoy helping people. You have a specific set of skills most don’t have.”

Connor said extra income is another reason he works for Air Evac.

“I have a child with an illness that requires a lot of care,” Connor said. “The additional money helps me pay medical bills.”

Newark benefits from some of the skills its firefighters use at other jobs, such as a plumber or electrician, Connor said.

“We get calls for everything,” Connor said. “You learn a little bit about everything. It’s such a great benefit to have someone with these skills. It’s always nice to have guys with specific skills.”

Likewise, the experience gained working in Newark attracts full-time firefighters and would attract part-timers, as well, Connor said.

“It’s a great town to get a lot of experience very quickly. That’s how we can attract a lot of candidates. This is an extremely busy fire department, comparatively speaking. When you leave work here, you’ve been up most of the night, usually.”

Views from elsewhere

The chief released the results of a survey distributed to an email list of the Central Ohio Fire Chiefs Association.

Of the 35 departments responding, 22 employ part-timers. Five pay less than $10 per hour, six others $11 to $12, and 11 departments pay $13 to $15 per hour.

Nineteen of 35 respondents said part-timers have had a positive impact or it’s worked “great,” while five said negative or a “bad idea” about hiring part-timers.

Five others answered both positive and negative or that it depends on various factors. Some said it was positive for financial or budget reasons. One said the negative aspect is part-timers are inconsistent showing up for work.

Heath fire Chief Mark Huggins said the city eliminated its part-timers about 12 years ago, but it was a good program. Part-timers could not be used to offset overtime, he said.

“Our fire levy was not generating enough revenue for the part-time program, and (that money) went toward full-time wages,” Huggins said. “It’s always nice to have extra people.”

Huggins said some of his firefighters work second jobs, including Brian Spellman, who is chief at Hanover Township.

“It has not been a problem with this job, and they’ve been told it can’t,” Huggins said.

“If something happens in Hanover, (Spellman) may make it a few minutes late because he’s tied up in a call. Somebody will cover for him until he gets in here. It’s not a problem. It doesn’t happen very often.”

Heath has 15 full-time firefighters and about 20 volunteers, but only about 10 volunteers are very active, he said.

The Advocate requested off-duty employment records from the Newark Division of Police. Of the 69 officers the police department employs, 14, or about 20 percent, reported having outside employment.

Of those 14, five work as instructors at Central Ohio Technical College, while eight are self-employed.

Two of the 14 have multiple jobs.

From The Newark Advocate

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