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City swimming in jeopardy? Lifeguard staffing determines pool offerings, even opening for season

GRANGEVILLE – Just what patrons would want to see in city pool offerings may be moot if there are insufficient lifeguards to run the facility.

Pool opening date pending decision

An opening date for the Grangeville City Pool is pending determination by the city recreation committee this week.

At this point the first session of swim lessons starts June 9. This is for lessons only as the lifeguard class (June 5-11) will be using the pool when lessons aren’t in session.

Last Monday, May 5, the Grangeville City Council took public comment on suggestions for facility offerings and operations in advance of the pool’s mid-June opening. This followed on criticism raised during last season when the facility eliminated Sunday swim and shortened hours, based on patron counts, as a cost-savings measure.

Mayor Bruce Walker explained the city has worked to provide a good facility and programming.

“But we’re limited with what we can do by employees,” he said. At minimum, the pool needs eight lifeguards to operate. “Ideally, we’d like 12,” he continued, which allows for four part-time employees who can relieve some of the workload for full-time lifeguards. However, at this time the city has seven applications, of which only four are qualified and three have to take and pass the lifeguard class.

An advantage that may encourage more people to apply, he said, was the city offering a local American Red Cross lifeguard certification class, June 5-11, taught by pool manager Ciarra Benton.

“We’ve tried to make it more affordable,” said City Clerk Tonya Kennedy, subsidizing $50 of the $150 court cost for those who, on certification completion, come to work for the city.

In comparison, other certifications cost around $175, and individuals would have to incur additional costs in travel to take courses in Lewiston, for example.

“We’re making every effort we can to make this affordable,” Walker said.

Last Monday, the council reviewed four letters, as well as two commenters in attendance on their suggestions for the pool. Several commenters were in agreement on pool hours accommodating working parents with hours they could use the facility with their family, and that Sunday swims return in exchange for eliminating a day during the week. Staff scheduling was a concern raised by Steve Wassmuth, who commented when his daughter worked at the pool the program was broken up through the day: “It took her 12 hours to get in eight hours,” he said. Another comment was on extending the season from when school gets out to when it begins in the fall.

“In reality, we just don’t have the employees, especially at the end,” Walker said, specifically with students returning to school and starting up fall sports, and in also providing lifeguards – who have worked the season without much time for summer break – time for relief before resuming classes.

Minimum age is 15 to be a lifeguard, and the more employees they have, Walker explained, allow full-time staff more breaks and give part-timers additional hours. Manager Benton commented she has also advertised in The Shopper and with Idaho Department of Labor for adults who may want some part-time summer employment, “but I haven’t had too much luck,” she said.

While Grangeville is left hanging on its opening dependent on sufficient staff, the Kamiah City Pool has literally been left high and dry.

A May 1 Clearwater Progress news story reported the Kamiah City Council announcing its pool would not open this year due to a lack of funding for an estimated $270,000 in needed renovations. The city is looking into grant funding possibly available in a year, but Mayor Dale Schneider was reported saying the best-case scenario in this case could put improvements another year out; essentially, the pool could be shut for two years or longer.


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