AUSTIN (KXAN) — As this record heat continues, many folks are trying to find a place to cool off.
However, this summer you may see some of your favorite public pools closed.
City of Austin officials confirmed to KXAN they will only open 15 of 34 pools on Monday, June 6.
This is due to the lack of lifeguards.
The Parks and Recreation Department has trained and hired 207 lifeguards. However, it would need an additional 550 lifeguards to operate all city pools this summer.
In an all-hands-on-deck recruiting effort, the city is offering a $1,250 signing bonus for prospective hires.
Austin aquatic manager Jodi Jay said said this created a recent bump in the application pool.
“We’ve had more than 75 applicants that have signed up for a lifeguard class this week alone,” she said.
Thursday, Austin City Council offered another incentive, waiving $12,000 worth of training fees people pay to become a certified lifeguard. Each applicant would typically pay $20 for a training fee — that is what the council is cutting.
Longtime city lifeguard Scott Cobb said that’s not enough. As he’s urging local leaders to increase the minimum pay to $22 per hour.
“Sixteen dollars for a living wage is still not attracting enough people to apply to be lifeguards,” Cobb said.
Yet, the City of Austin remains confident it will train enough lifeguards to operate at its modified schedule — 15 pools open six days a week — in three weeks.
“It is something that we will have to do,” Jay said. “To make sure that the pools that we have open are safe and properly staffed.”
Stewart White regularly swims for exercise at the Deep Eddy Pool. He’s concerned this will result in the remaining pools being packed with people.
“That’s definitely going to put a bigger load on all of the pools that are open,” White said. “Sometimes there’s a 20-minute wait just to get into the few lanes that they have here.”
Yet, the City of Austin is adamant it’ll continue with its full-fledged recruiting effort to train lifeguards.
“Our hope is that we’re able to open every pool before the summer’s end,” Jay concluded.
All 11 of the city’s splash pads opened up last weekend. These water parks do not require an on-duty lifeguard.