By Clint Parker-
Several sources have recently contacted the Tribune about the firefighter retention rate at the Weaverville Fire Department. According to these sources, who wish to remain anonymous for various reasons, their calls were fueled by the recent resignation or firing of five firefighters. In additional to these calls, Weaverville Fire Chief Jeff Hooper, who was hired in July of 2004, just celebrated completing eight years at the helm of the department.These two events prompted the Tribune to file a written request for employment records for the last 10 years covering Chief Hooper eight-year tenure and two years prior to his hiring in hopes of putting an end to the speculation surrounding the retention rate and see what the facts really are. The letter of request for information sent to Hooper included “the name of the employee, dates of employment of that employee, rank of the employee and the pay amount of the employee when they left.” The Tribune also asked for “…the total number of paid positions currently on staff, if all of those position are filled, [and] anyone that is still with the department who was there before” Chief Hooper started. Finally, the Tribune asked for “any new hires in the past 30 days as well as the cost of training associated with a new hire and any formal grievances filed against” Chief Hooper “…by any employee whether still employed or not.”
On July 27, we received a response to the letter from Weaverville Town Manager Michael Boaz with the information we requested (see chart on page for full list of names, ranks, etc.). There was no addressing of the “grievances” question in Boaz’s email. The following is what the Tribune learned from the data we received. Over the past 10 years, 70 people have been employed at the Weaverville Fire Station, either as a full-or part-time firefighter, which includes two years prior to Chief Hooper’s hiring. Of the 70, 45, both part- and full-time, employees have left the department. The cause of their separation was not given.
If you take out the two years prior to Hooper becoming chief, 62 full- and part-time personnel have worked under Hooper and 36 left during that time. If you include both full- and part-time employees and the number of positions available that gives a turnover rate the past eight years of 207 percent. Currently, 25 of the 70 are still employed, part- or full-time or volunteer at the station, but there is only 18 full-time positions available according to Boaz’s email and before 2009 there were only 17 full-time positions at the station. With that in mind, the Tribune went back and recalculated the rate without the part-time employees and the turnover rate then became 167 percent.
Here’s how the numbers looks when you break them down by two year periods and compare it to the two year turnover rate prior to Chief Hooper and the two years after. The turnover rate went from 29.4% between July of 2002 and July of 2004 to 76.5% between July of 2004 and July of 2006, which is the largest period for non-retainment rate of employees. However, that rate returned to a pre-Hooper administration level for the next two year period at 29.4% (July, 2006 to July, 2008). In the next two years, the level rose to 51.4% (July, 2008 to July, 2010) and then settled back to 38.8% for the last two years (July, 2010 to July, 1012). As for the five firefighters who prompted our sources to call, the Tribune confirmed from the data given to us by the town that five personnel have left with in the last two months. They are Firefighters Martin H. Travis, Adam B. Ross, Patrick T. Worley, Engineer Eric M. Klause and Captain Dan “Trey” C. Young. The information provided by the town gave no reason for their leaving. There have been five new hires in the last 45 days. As for any personnel who were there before Hooper took over that are still employed at the station, there are three. They are Deputy Chief Eric Rogers, Battalion Chief Tim Laster and Fire Marshal Terry Malone.
Editor’s note: Be sure to read the commentary by Clint Parker on page 4 associated with this article. Next week the Tribune will continue at look at the retention rate at the Weaverville Fire Department by looking at the retention rates at other fire departments in the area.
Below find a list of firefighters who have worked at the Weaverville Fire Department over the last 10 years, dates of employment, rank, pay, if they were at the station when Chief Hooper was hired and if they are still employed at the station.