Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shallow Pool Chronic Shortage of Lifeguardshas Pool Operators Working Now to Make Sure People Can Swim in Summer

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Shallow Pool Chronic Shortage of Lifeguardshas Pool Operators Working Now to Make Sure People Can Swim in Summer

Article excerpt

Dave Hutner has been known to switch his street clothes for swim trunks and sit in the lifeguard chair at Butler Township's Alameda Pool, though as acquatic director he has other duties to attend to.

And in Cranberry, staffers have had to close off parts of the township's swimming complex at North Boundary Park for lack of adequate guard staffing.

It is in Butler County as it is in most places: Good lifeguarding help can be hard to find.

"It's a national problem. We all talk about it in the industry," said Hutner, noting that most lifeguarding positions are filled by college and high school students trying to make a few extra bucks over summer vacation.

But pools are competing with fast-food restaurants, stores and gas stations for entry-level workers and, combined with the busy personal schedules of students today, the end result is a chronic lifeguard shortage.

Mike Diehl, parks and recreation director for Cranberry, said he can never get enough lifeguards to cover the morning-til-night, seven-day-a-week operation.

So, despite the "February" on the calendar and the brisk temperatures, Hutner and Diehl are thinking summer. And they're beginning their efforts to recruit lifeguards now.

Cranberry boosted lifeguard pay last summer, and Butler County is doing the same for its only public swimming pool this summer. The county will give full-time lifeguards a 75-cent-per-hour raise, and part-timers will get 50 cents an hour more.

New full-timers will earn $6.50 an hour and part-timers, $6.25 an hour. Each had previously earned $5.75. Returning lifeguards get a bonus of 25 cents an hour and those coming back for a third year will get an extra 50 cents an hour.

Cranberry has a similar bonus program for returning lifeguards, and starting pay there is $7.00 an hour, Diehl said.

Diehl said the salary increase last summer helped him in his efforts to hire about 50 lifeguards, but he'd hire twice that many if he could find them.

"They don't work fulltime, so we occasionally find ourselves short and we've had to close down parts of the pool for a brief period," he said.

Hutner said he has occasionally had to substitute for an absent lifeguard to prevent that kind of problem. …

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