by Dennis Dalman
On a sub-zero, bitterly cold evening, Jan. 27, the Sartell City Council members seemed to have summer on their minds as they spent a good deal of time discussing wading pools in the city.
The topic was a bid proposal from the St. Cloud Area YMCA to provide lifeguards this summer at the two wading pools in the city – the one at Watab Park, the other in the Celebration neighborhood.
After a lengthy conversation, the council voted 4-1 to consider the bid but only if city staff can obtain more precise information about what such a contract would entail. Council member Sarah Jane Nicoll voted against the resolution.
Here are the basics of the YMCA offer:
Lifeguards would supervise the two pools from May 26 to Sept. 1, 2014, with hiring and scheduling of one guard per pool from 11:30 .m.-7:30 p.m. Monday through Sunday.
The lifeguards would be trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and the use of defibrillators.
The total cost would be $16,684 to the city. That cost could increase if the YMCA decides, on very busy days at the pools, that more than one lifeguard might be required from time to time.
It costs the city, on an average year, about $27,000 to operate the pools, including trained college-student lifeguards, supplies, communications, liability insurance, utilities, repairs and maintenance and other miscellaneous expenses. For a contract with YMCA, aside from the nearly $17,023 in wages, it would cost the city (with the same city expenses added) $28,857. A YMCA contract, in other words, would cost only about $1,800 more than what the city spends now per summer.
However, council members and Sartell City Administrator Mary Degiovanni noted cost could be higher if there should be an occasional need for two lifeguards at a pool and if the city decides to add more open days after Labor Day. That has often been discussed and considered – adding more days in September when the weather can be very hot.
Council member Nicoll asked why there would ever be a need for more than one lifeguard since they are not deep pools and that many parents are always there watching the children. Have there been any unfortunate incidents?, she wondered aloud. Park Department Director Brad Borders said there haven’t been any.
Council member Steve Hennes noted, however, when the weather gets very hot, the pools can be very busy, very crowded, which might require more supervision.
Mayor Joe Perske, noting he himself is a trained lifeguard, said it’s not so much water accidents that are a danger – it’s children indulging in antics and horseplay on the concrete that could lead to trouble. That, he said, might justify constant vigilance by lifeguards.
Council member David Peterson said he has trouble justifying entering a contract for more money than what they city pays now for the same services. Nicoll agreed with him, saying she is not comfortable with the proposed contract until she finds out answers to the council’s questions.
Council member Amy Braig-Lindstrom said she is in favor of the contract because it would give the city a chance to start a partnership with the YMCA, it could extend pool days for a longer season and give city workers a bit more time for other duties.
The council voted to give Degiovanni permission to visit again with YMCA officials to find answers to their questions, mainly about the variables that could cause the cost to increase. She will bring the matter back for the council’s consideration at an upcoming meeting.