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Fire captain's double duty concerns some - but not in Raleigh

Posted October 23, 2014

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— A longtime captain for the Raleigh Fire Department is being scrutinized by some for a second job he holds as the chief firefighter for the city of Claremont – a Catawba County community of about 1,400 people.

Volunteer firefighters with the Claremont Fire Department, near Hickory, have complained that Raleigh Capt. Bart Travis has neglected his duties as chief of that operation – a position he's held since October 2013 and that pays $56,000 annually.

The Claremont City Council met Thursday afternoon for a specially called meeting about Travis and the fire department but quickly ended the meeting once it became apparent that the matter was a personnel issue that could not be addressed in a public forum.

City Manager Doug Barrick said that the city has never received a formal complaint about Travis and that council members advised that formal grievances needed to be filed before they could take up the matter.

He didn't know about the specific complaints lodged against Travis.

"He's very ethical and leads a very progressive and well-managed department," Barrick said.

The concerns, instead, were taken to the Claremont Fire Department Risk Assessment and Membership Committee, he added. It's the same committee that hired Travis last year and knew that he intended to hold two jobs.

"The issue of him working for the City of Raleigh and for the City of Claremont was made known to that committee before he was employed here with the city," Barrick said Thursday.

Committee Chairman Michael Hathaway says he's received about a dozen complaints over the past three months regarding administration, leadership and other concerns, but he wouldn't provide specifics.

Nearly 170 miles away, Travis' double duty isn't an issue in the Capital City, Raleigh Fire Chief John McGrath says.

Many of the city's 600 firefighters hold a second job, he says, and doing so is acceptable as long as it is reputable and doesn't interfere with their duties with the city.

Travis – captain of Engine 25, which serves the northern borders of the city – has never had anyone complain about his ability to do his job, McGrath said, and has never had any unexplained or excessive absences.

His annual salary in Raleigh is nearly $63,000.

"(Travis) has an excellent work record. He's an excellent employee. He has been an employee of the Raleigh Fire Department since 1998 and, as far as the City of Raleigh and the Raleigh Fire Department are concerned, he is in compliance with all of our rules and regulations," McGrath said.

Calls to Travis weren't returned Thursday, but he told the Hickory Daily Record that he had not been aware of the concerns about his job performance and thought he was doing a good job balancing both.

"It's tough. It takes good time management," he told the newspaper.

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  • DJ of Clayton Oct 24, 2014

    First, all EMTs, firefighters, and paramedics have some down time between calls. That time is usually spent completing reports, checking equipment, cleaning the stations (no one cleans their toilets like at most offices), and more. Yes, if they work 24 hour shifts, they may get to sleep some at night. The bottom line is that we do not pay them for what they do, we pay them for what they may have to do. They may be the ones pumping on your chest when your heart is not beating, delivering your baby when you cannot make it to the hospital, or stopping you from bleeding to death. They may be running into the building you just came out of because of smoke, fire, or whatever else.

    No one takes the job to get rich. But after a while, they do decide that maybe they want something better for their families. So they work an additional job, two, or three.....

  • earnyourownway Oct 24, 2014

    bull2513, I've been self employed for 26 years. I know what it's like to do good and to survive through slow times. I may could have done better and I could have done a lot worse. I have no one to blame or credit for my success or failures other than me. I pay for everything I do. Only help and handout I got was from two good parents. You cut in business and then you can tell me if I can cut or not.

  • knowsalittle Oct 24, 2014

    Aren't there thousands of public school teachers also working extra jobs? Why aren't these workers scrutinized ? This is not news worthy.

  • Huey Oct 24, 2014

    This is not "news" as far as I am concerned. I have no idea why you are covering it.

  • bull2513 Oct 24, 2014

    Earnyourownway sounds like someone who couldn't make the cut. As far as state retirement, it is usually around 80%......after 30 years (75% at 20). In NC, LEO's are mandated a 5% 401(k) contribution regardless of what THEY contribute, by general statute, unless something's changed. How about the same mandate for firefighters? Sure there are times when they are not running calls non-stop, but there are also times when they are. Not to mention mandatory training and re-certification. The vast majority are not in it for the money. It takes a special kind of person to do the job. Captain Travis sounds like just such a person.

    FTM-PTB

  • btneast Oct 24, 2014

    Add in being away from home 10 nights a month, missing your families activities and sports, missing birthdays and holidays Yes, but that also means they are home about 20 days of the month. All firefighters get in with the knowledge that they aren't going to get rich, however ....most are able to run a separate business on the side with the amount of free time they have. The fire job gets them health insurance and a retirement much earlier in life than most private sector jobs. Once they retire, many already have a thriving separate business. I know one that has an upholstery business, several that do house painting, one that runs a fire extinguisher maintenance business, several that have large lawn maintenance businesses.

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Oct 24, 2014

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    Nice "Big Government" comment you have there. Maybe you could extend this mentality to what other people value too... Or not.

  • clrracer Oct 24, 2014

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    I agree 100% that there is waste in government, including emergency services, but that is a discussion for another day. In most counties fire departments are funded through a fire tax based on property value, so trimming money from other funds, politicians salaries for example, doesn't equal more money in the FDs budgets. It is basically either cut FD spending or raise the fire tax, hence my comment.

  • BE Oct 24, 2014

    Why is this news worthy in Raleigh?

  • Robert Hand Oct 24, 2014
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    The only way he would make more after retirement would be if he banked money into supplemental retirement (457/401K). I'm sure you have done your research on how the State Retirement System works. You are forced to pay into the system. That's money they take from you to give you later. He would be lucky to draw 70% of what his highest paid average of three years were. The rest the employee makes up with money they saved/invested. Not saying all you friends you know that retired from city jobs are lying to you I just don't think you have a clue what you are talking about.

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