AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department is sorting through several strategies to boost the city’s lifeguard staffing issues, a City memo says.
The memo says Austin’s Aquatics department still needs around “599 lifeguards to fully operate the aquatic system during the summer season” and “200 temporary employees for summer camp operations.” Additionally, the department is looking for 25 employees for ongoing summer maintenance.
Austin PARD is focusing more on incentives and bonuses to increase job interest rather than pay raises. A $1 hourly wage increase was suggested by the board and stakeholders, the memo said.
Here are some other strategies listed in the PARD memo.
- Waiving the $20 training fee for hires. This would be a $12,000 cost to the city, which would have to be approved by Austin City Council.
- Providing temporary employees with uniforms. This would cost around $38,000 and will be absorbed by this year’s vacancy savings.
- Offer incentives and bonuses for employees who work a certain number of shifts through mid-season or receive advanced certification in Open Water Lifeguarding, Swim Instructor Certifications, or Lifeguard Instructor Certifications
- The department is also working with several support groups, like the Austin Parks Foundation, the Friends of Barton Springs, Save Our Springs, to find additional strategies. Some of the options include: donations, volunteer work for Barton Springs cleaning, marketing and incentives.
What to do about vacancies at Barton Springs Pool?
Austin is also looking at long-term solutions for Barton Springs Pool.
The city said in a March press release that Barton Springs Pool requires lifeguards to have an extra Open Water Lifeguard certification and training, and that limits who can work there. Until the city can overcome staffing issues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the popular swimming spot will be closed Mondays and Wednesdays, in addition to its regular Thursday closure for cleaning.
Barton Springs poses a unique challenge. The memo, citing Austin’s increasing population and tourism rate, calls Barton Springs a “theme park environment [rather] than a local swimming hole.”
The memo says the department should “establish and hire the needed quantity of full-time lifeguard employees to support a year-round aquatic system.”