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Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Pay scale needs to increase to compete with job market

By William Kincaid
Celina must raise pay rates at the Bryson Pool to attract more qualified managers and teenage lifeguards, council members and Safety Service Director Jeff Hazel said during a meeting Tuesday.
Officials don't want the pool to be a last resort for a job, as teens can make more money at Wal-Mart or McDonald's, they said.
The city's park and recreation committee recommended increasing the hourly wage of the pool manager from $8.50 to $12; assistant managers from $7 to $9.50; WSI certified lifeguards from $6 to $8; and certified lifeguards from $5.25 to $7.25.
"We've had an increasingly difficult time retaining lifeguards," Hazel said.
According to information provided by Parks and Recreation Department Director Jeff Fortkamp, beginning wages at Wal-Mart are $7.10 an hour plus a 20 cent raise each year, while McDonald's pays $7.25 an hour.
City officials spoke of an undermanned pool this summer that went through multiple managers. By the end of the summer, there were only 11 or 12 lifeguards remaining, as others had simply stopped coming to work, Hazel said. The ideal number of lifeguards is 16 to 18, he added.
Normally, if a lifeguard doesn't at least call in when intending to miss work, he or she is fired. But that wasn't the case this summer. Because of the lack of lifeguards, those who didn't show up still kept their job, according to Hazel.
Mayor Sharon LaRue said she would have rather seen the pool closed than to allow such employee behavior.
Council member Angie King suggested the city reimburse the lifeguards for the $250 certification fee. Others agreed, but said the reimbursement should not come until halfway or at the end of the season to deter lifeguards from walking out on the job.
"This isn't a slouch job. This is a very crucial job," Hazel said.
City officials also hope the wage increases will attract a more qualified manager.
"You have to make it worth their while to give up that time," Hazel said about the summer position.
Councilman June Scott said he would like to see someone hired who will stay with the pool for many years, such as Coldwater Memorial Park swimming pool manager Bob Miller.
Committee members also learned the pool ended the year with a $28,451 deficit. This year the pool took in $66,837 in revenue and had $95,288 in expenses.
"How are we going to cover the cost of it? We want this pool to be more self-supporting and less dependent on the general fund," Scott said.
"The pool will always cost us money," Hazel responded, pointing out it is an amenity to city residents.
The pool has ended every year of the decade in the red, according to information provided by Fortkamp. Last year the deficit was $32,710, while in 2000, it was $37,155.
Hazel said if the pool were to be self-sufficient, it would drive the prices of season and daily passes too high. Committee members on Wednesday night recommended increasing daily passes $1 next year, with children paying $3 and adults $4.
A family season pass cost $90 and a single pass cost $45 this year.
"Are there other ways of being more sufficient?" Scott asked.
He suggested the city stop selling season passes and charge everyone a daily charge. No one at the meeting supported that idea, but King asked if the city could eliminate the concession stands and instead install vending machines.
The pool this year took in $18,167 in revenue from concessions, which cost $14,276. But when labor is accounted for, the city ultimately lost money, King said.
Fortkamp said he was opposed to vending machines as there could be problems with machines not working properly and litter. He also believes the concession stand is a "foot-in-the-door" for 14-year-olds who eventually take other city jobs, such as lifeguard positions.
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