There were only three lifeguards on duty at the Tama-ToledoFamily Aquatic Center on Saturday, July 19, Tama City Council member Steve Baier reported to council members on Monday night.
Marsha Keahna, Aquatic Center manager, confirmed the low number to The News-Herald on Tuesday and said these circumstances require adjustments in the pool operations. She said an assessment is made of, for example, what age groups are at the pool at a given time. She said if a majority are younger, a feature of the pool such as a slide or diving board is closed so staff can focus on areas the younger swimmers are using.
She said on one other day this summer there had been a low number of guards available.
"The numbers are down," she said. "Maybe there's just not as much interest in becoming a guard, but maybe it'll turn around when more turn (age) 15."
She said perhaps the circumstance is"just like in sports, there's good years when interest is good and you have talent and years you don't." Keahna speaks from experience in sports as she is the South Tama girls head varsity basketball coach.
Both Keahna and Baier said pay may be a factor.
Baier said he believes the Aquatic Center Board may have to look at the pay arrangement for guards. They are currently paid on a graduated scale based upon successive years they work at the pool.
Starting guards are paid $7.50 hourly and the pay increases up to $8.50 hourly for those who stay in the position for the fourth year.
The Aquatic Center Board did have incentive pay on the agenda for discussion at their meeting on Monday, July 21.
The shortage of lifeguards does not appear to be for lack of recruiting. Keahna said Marlys Upah, assistant manager, sought to find help including from swimming pools in surrounding towns before the Tama-Toledo center opened in June.
Currently there are two guards from the Gladbrook-Reinbeck area and one each from LeGrand, Brooklyn and Marshalltown on the staff here, Keahna said.
A total of 18 certified guards and one fill-in guard, were on staff when the Aquatic Center opened. As the swimming season has progressed the numbers appear to have dwindled and will be even lower toward the end.
Keahna said the guard numbers will be reduced more in the coming week because a series of school activities and camps get underway which the lifeguards want to participate in.
The Aquatic Center is slated to close on Aug. 10 this year because the start of the South Tama school year is moved up a week to Aug. 18.