After a yr of lockdown measures and closures geared toward stopping the unfold of the coronavirus, Austinites have entered the summer season season able to work together with the world once more. However as folks head outside, they’re noticing that the town’s aquatics operations aren’t as strong as in earlier years, with many swimming pools and splash pads across the metropolis nonetheless closed.
The rationale boils all the way down to staffing, the pandemic and the winter storm.
The town’s Parks and Recreation Division didn’t enter the season with sufficient lifeguards to employees all out there swimming pools. PARD’s lifeguard staffing difficulty isn’t a brand new improvement; the scarcity has been on the horizon for months.
In January, the division put out a memo to Mayor Steve Adler and Metropolis Council letting them know that the division would wish to rent 600 lifeguards by Could. PARD fell nicely wanting this goal and as of June 14, had solely 219 guards on payroll.
To assist mitigate staffing problems, PARD carried out “a tiered opening schedule, based mostly upon the variety of lifeguard employees wanted to function the amenities, with estimated opening dates.”
In an electronic mail to the Austin Monitor, parks division spokesperson Kanya Lyons mentioned that the tier system figuring out which swimming pools would open first was based mostly on components like location or proximity to different amenities, staffing ranges wanted to function the pool, programming wants, and the division’s upkeep/restore schedule.
Swimming pools like Bartholomew, Barton Springs and Deep Eddy opened first, and swimming pools like Parque Zaragoza, Rosewood and Montopolis opened on June 19 because the staffing scarcity started to ease in latest weeks. As of Monday, PARD has 316 guards on employees.
The division considers the scarcity to be “a direct results of operational modifications mandatory through the pandemic.”
The town needed to cease hiring lifeguards in March of final yr because the pandemic started spreading, and wasn’t in a position to resume hiring efforts once more till March of this yr. However even then, hiring efforts have been stalled by limits on the variety of guards who could be educated at one time on account of coronavirus protocols.
Issues do appear to be trending upward, although. Lyons informed the Monitor that the Aquatics Division “has been instructing courses at capability since hiring resumed so as to get as many lifeguards as attainable licensed and dealing.”
One other complicating issue impacting operations is the continued fallout from the February winter storm that left tens of millions of Texans with out energy. After the storm passed, Parks and Recreation Division Director Kimberly McNeeley estimated that the town’s park system had suffered round $1 million in damages as a direct results of the storm.
A memo launched earlier this month defined that all the metropolis’s aquatic amenities sustained some harm through the storm, delaying the town’s restore schedule, testing for the presence of lead and asbestos, and the provision of elements and contractors.
The town has prioritized repairs by specializing in year-round swimming pools first, then swimming pools the place lifeguard coaching programs are performed, after which all different aquatic amenities. At the moment, there are 9 swimming pools all through the town that aren’t anticipated to open till summer season of subsequent yr.
Picture made out there by way of a Creative Commons license.
The Austin Monitor’s work is made attainable by donations from the neighborhood. Although our reporting covers donors once in a while, we’re cautious to maintain enterprise and editorial efforts separate whereas sustaining transparency. A whole record of donors is obtainable here, and our code of ethics is defined here.