Park district struggling to find more lifeguardsThe Dickinson Park District is facing a lifeguard shortage, but Kevin Klipfel, recreation and facilities manager, said it’s not yet time to panic.
By: Ashley Martin, The Dickinson Press
The Dickinson Park District is facing a lifeguard shortage, but Kevin Klipfel, recreation and facilities manager, said it’s not yet time to panic.
“We’ve got enough to run it, but it’s when somebody gets sick, something comes up, a couple people take a vacation, that’s when we get into a bind,” Klipfel said. “It doesn’t give us a whole lot of flexibility.”
The Park District experienced the same problems last year and had to shut down Dickinson’s pools for a few days over Independence Day because they didn’t have enough lifeguards.
“Holidays are our biggest challenge,” Klipfel said. “People are taking vacations and they don’t want to work.”
Commissioners discussed the issue with Klipfel Monday at a Park Board Meeting.
“We just don’t want to see what happened last year again,” Commissioner Carol Herauf said.
Between 24 and 30 lifeguards will be employed at the West River Community Center this summer, Klipfel said. Forty lifeguards would be ideal, but he said it’s hard to tell exactly how many they will need.
“It all depends on how many hours they want to work and their availability,” Klipfel said.
The Park District needs lifeguards to put in a combined total of almost 400 hours a week, excluding swimming lessons.
A contributing issue is they are losing more and more college students as employees Klipfel said. He added the older people get, the more they start looking for higher paying jobs.
Mike Lefor, Park Board president, asked if raising lifeguards’ wages would help the situation. Klipfel said their wages are raised periodically as they gain experience, but it hasn’t seemed to help retain their lifeguards.
Another issue Klipfel said they face is Dickinson State University students whose parents do not live in the area often move back home for the summer.
“We’ve got a good core of college students and not all of them are Dickinson kids” Klipfel said. “That’s the challenge we’re getting is we’re not getting college students or kids who were lifeguards for us coming back for the summer.”
He said this complicates the situation, since they need more lifeguards in the summer because there are more swimming lessons.
“It’s going to be a challenge this summer,” Kevin Klipfel said. “In the next week or so we’ll have about six or eight of our lifeguards go home for the summer.”
It will be easier to cover positions this year, compared to last year, Klipfel said, since the North Pool will be closed this summer.
“There’s obviously less hours to cover, but the other hand of it is it will probably be busier over here (at the WRCC),” Klipfel said.
Klipfel said they had about four lifeguards on duty at the North Pool. Three to five lifeguards must be on duty at the WRCC, depending on how busy the facility is.
Lifeguard training classes for those 15 years and older will begin June 4.
“Hopefully we can get a half dozen people signed up for this course and that will take some stress off our staff,” Klipfel said.
In other matters, the Park Board thanked Greg Pruitt and Paul Quinn for organizing the fish cleanup at Patterson Lake. They were presented with plaques of appreciation for their efforts.