Lifeguard shortages cause changes to area pools opening Memorial Day weekend

Continuing lifeguard shortages are causing changes at some Dayton-area outdoor municipal pools, including cutting operating hours, limiting capacity and raising rates as they open this weekend.

The national trend has Franklin, Kettering and Miamisburg all seeking more lifeguards while Tipp City has hiked daily rates at its aquatic center due, in part, to higher labor costs for those jobs, a recent Dayton Daily News survey found.

Staff shortages “go beyond the aquatic industry and the increased competition for workers has made it difficult for some aquatic facilities to hire and retain staff,” the Central & Southern Ohio Region of the American Red Cross said Friday.

Troy, West Carrollton and Washington Twp. pools are not facing staffing shortages, the survey found.

Kettering and Tipp City have trimmed operating hours while Franklin is considering similar measures, and Miamisburg hasn’t ruled them out, but is limiting capacity, officials said.

“We just don’t have the numbers” of job applicants since pre-pandemic 2019, said Mary Beth O’Dell, Kettering’s parks, recreation and cultural arts director.

The city launched “a very aggressive recruitment” in November that included higher wages, but when the Adventure Reef Water Park opens today it is expected be about half staffed, she said.

The lifeguard shortage was more severe in 2021, the first year pools reopened since the pandemic hit, officials said.

In pre-COVID seasons, Kettering was fully staffed with about 50 to 60 lifeguards and 30 to 40 water park attendants, O’Dell added. Those numbers this year are 31 and 13, respectively, she said Thursday.

Compared to last year — when staffing storages led to capacity limits — “we’re better, but not nearly where we were in 2019,” O’Dell said.

Kettering will also restrict access to its main pool for water park users, but will offer the same discounted rate as it did last year, O’Dell said.

About three to five lifeguards are needed at Miamisburg’s Sycamore Trails Aquatic Center, according to Gary Giles, the city’s public information officer.

But so far, operating hours haven’t been changed due to staffing, he said in the survey.

“We hope we are able to continue this throughout the season, and do maintain plans to limit attendance based on staffing levels,” Giles said.

He also said the opening of the aquatic center’s new splash pad is being delayed.

“We hoped to have it completed by this weekend, but supply disruptions and delays in shipping have affected construction,” Giles said.

Kettering and Miamisburg are both encouraging lifeguard applicants to seek jobs on their websites.

At least 10 more lifeguards are needed in Franklin for its pool at Community Park to be fully staffed, the city said in the survey.

“We are getting lifeguards slowly but surely,” said Teresa Perry of the Franklin parks and recreation department. “The best-case scenario is we get at least five more lifeguards to keep us in a rotation schedule.”

Changes in operating hours are being considered due to staffing issues, she added.

The shortages are being felt across Ohio and nationally, according to media reports. An “extreme shortfall of lifeguard applicants” has prompted plans for the Cleveland suburb of Mentor to open only one of its three municipal pools.

Meanwhile, Westerville — near Columbus — is looking at reducing hours because of the lack of lifeguards, a television station reported last week.

The Chicago Tribune reported Friday that lifeguard shortages are threatening the full opening of beaches in and around the city.

The Tippecanoe Family Aquatic Center is increasing entry fees and will close an hour earlier.

The Tipp City Council this spring voted to increase the daily pass fees by $1 and close earlier to help offset increased costs to pool operator SwimSafe.

The increased cost was attributed to higher labor bills for lifeguards and a large increase in the price of chemicals that SwimSafe buys for the pool, officials said.

The Troy Aquatic Park will be staffed at its typical levels for lifeguards, front desk attendants and concession staff.

Of the 2021 staff, 70% has returned to the TAP for this summer, said Carrie Slater, assistant Troy recreation director.

The city has not changed operating hours for this season and has not been impacted by lifeguard shortages. The city made an adjustment in the pay for part-time/seasonal staff. This was the normal beginning of the year minimum wage adjustment, said Patrick Titterington, city service and safety director.

Reporters Eric Schwartzberg, Ed Richter and Nancy Bowman contributed to this story.

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