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Second jobs the norm for Meridian firefighters

By Staff
TOOLS OF THE TRADES Meridian firefighter Adrian Coleman works two jobs so he can provide for his family. On his off days from the fire department, he does heating and air-conditioning work at his own business, A.C.'s Heating and Cooling Services. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Sheila Blackmon/The Meridian Star
Aug. 16, 2001
Meridian firefighter Adrian Coleman works about 110 hours a week during the summer, and 80-90 hours a week during the winter and he's still trying to make ends meet.
What started out as a hobby for Coleman heating and air conditioning work on the side has become a necessity. After a back injury forced his wife, Shannon, to quit working, Coleman had to provide for the two of them and their 3-year-old son something that is not easy to do on the $23,000 he makes annually at the Meridian Fire Department.
City councilmen were expected to discuss Mayor John Robert Smith's 2002 budget proposal this morning, a budget proposal that includes no pay raises for city employees and leaves 21 jobs unfunded.
Coleman said he's worked at least two jobs several times and sometimes three, including his own business, A.C.'s Heating and Cooling Services. He's worked for an ambulance service and another fire department, both at different times while working for the Meridian Fire Department.
When Shannon gave birth to their son, Devin, Coleman had to drop a job. He chose to remain a Meridian firefighter.
If he quit his firefighter's job, Coleman said he could make four times his firefighter's salary working about nine months out of the year in his own business. He sometimes loses private work while he's working shifts at the fire department, but now he stays for an added reason.
Not only does he love his co-workers, he needs the family insurance insurance that Coleman said costs him more each time he gets a raise.
On the nights he's home, Coleman said he gets to spend about an hour with his son before Devin's bedtime.
His fire department shift is 24 hours on and 48 hours off, and he works 10- to 14-hour days during his time off from the fire department. If his 48-hour off-time falls on Saturday or Sunday, he works half-days Saturdays and takes Sundays off so he can catch up on time with his family. Often, he goes straight from the fire department at 7 a.m. to his first work order for his own business.
Partly, it's because "I love to work," Coleman said, but he said he would cut back on his second job if his salary at the fire department was high enough.
Until then, he'll go on working a second job. He said most firefighters do.
T.D. Rowell, a Meridian firefighter for 14 years, said he works for another fire department on his off days. Five-year firefighter Eric Hardy does contract construction work, and Brent Baucum, a firefighter for 6 1/2 years, owns a landscaping business.
Coleman said many firefighters work second jobs together and some even work for each other's private businesses.
Sheila Blackmon is a staff writer for The Meridian Star. Call her at 693-1551, ext. 3275, or e-mail her at sblackmon@themeridianstar.com.
Current salaries:
All city employees received pay raises effective Oct. 1, 2000, of 21/2 percent of their salaries or $800, whichever was the greater amount.
Current Salary
Chief Administrative Officer Ken Storms $71,302
Fire Chief Bunky Partridge $54,329
Starting pay for a firefighter $19,882
Former Police Chief Gregg Lewis $54,329
Open police chief position $40,428-$60,642
Starting pay for a patrol officer $20,616
Starting pay for a senior patrol officer $22,084
Average pay for a patrol officer $23,813
Source: Personnel Office, city of Meridian

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