From The Enterprise - Upper Cape Cod News and Information

Lifeguard Shortage Prompts Town To Bump Up Pay

Posted in: Sandwich News, Top Stories
By MARY STANLEY
May 16, 2008 - 10:48:52 AM

     Strong swimmers who have been certified through a lifeguard training class stand to make some decent money this summer -- or at least more than last year. That’s because there is a high demand for people with such qualifications.
     Sandwich Recreation Director Daniel M. Landesman had a difficult time filling lifeguard posts last year, so this year he has raised the hourly wage, hoping to attract enough people so that all three of the town’s beaches are guarded this summer.
     “Two years ago I had 13 lifeguards and, last year, I only had six,” Mr. Landesman said.
     Trying to return to a healthier complement of guards at the town’s beaches, he said he has bumped up the hourly wage range from $9 to $11 per hour to $11.50 to $13.50 per hour.
     “The numbers [of available lifeguards] are low, and it’s not too much different from last year. To combat this situation, instead of hiring a dozen lifeguards, I’m offering more money, hoping to hire between eight and 10 lifeguards,” Mr. Landesman said.
     Mr. Landesman said the shortage of lifeguards is not unique to Sandwich, but he pointed out that smaller towns take a harder hit when they see their lifeguarding staff begin to diminish. He explained that for a large town, which may employ 70 lifeguards per season, losing 20 guards does not have as much of an impact as smaller communities that lose only six guards, but those six represent 50 percent of the staff.  
     “Bigger communities can absorb the hit better than smaller communities,” he said.
     Last year, Mr. Landesman said he only had enough guards to cover beaches at Peters Pond at Oakcrest Cove and Wakeby Pond. That left Snake Pond, for the most part, with a “no lifeguard on duty” policy in effect.
     He said although every water area in town is important, because swimming lessons are offered through the Recreation Department at Wakeby Pond and because Peters Pond is part of the town-owned Oakcrest Cove property, it was important to staff those two areas first. “If I had to pick two areas, these were the two I picked,” he said.
     He went on to say that because he needs to have at least two guards on duty at a beach, he could not divide his staff up to cover all three beaches, seven days a week.
     Even with six guards, he said, the potential exists that one of the beaches may not have a lifeguard on duty one or two days per week. He said that because the guards tend to be college students, he tries to accommodate their schedules. If they are taking summer courses one or two days per week, he will try to work around that.
     Beyond offering a better salary, Mr. Landesman is hoping that the prices at the gas pumps will help keep certified lifeguards who live in Sandwich working in town rather than spending the money to get to a position farther down Cape.
     “You never know what factors are going to impact the decision to work here The goal is also about promoting the idea of Sandwich residents working in their own town. It helps to build a sense of community,” he said.
     With the beach season scheduled to open officially on Friday, June 27, Mr. Landesman said he is now accepting applications for the open positions.
     With six applications already in, Mr. Landesman is optimistic that he will be able to staff all three beaches this year.  
     “Ideally, I would like to have 10 guards. But with the higher wages, I would have to crunch the numbers to see if I could make that work,” he said.
     Even with a good-sized staff, the recreation director noted that there may still be a few days when there is no guard on duty, and parents will have to be extra vigilant about watching their children in the water. “The lifeguard should be the second person to reach a child in the water; a parent should be the first,” he said.
     Applications are available at the Recreation Department on the lower level of the Human Services Building at 270 Quaker Meetinghouse Road or can be downloaded from the town’s website at sandwichmass.org.

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