The Glen Cove City Council on Tuesday night approved hiring a Long Beach firm to provide lifeguards for two city beaches that have been closed for swimming a number of times this summer for safety reasons.
Glen Cove’s action comes after years of lifeguard shortages in the city and as, according to media reports, communities nationwide grapple with attracting enough qualified people to work as lifeguards. Nassau County sometimes closes pool lanes due to a lack of guards.
The council voted 6-0 to hire Long Beach-based Skudin Swim, Inc, to provide lifeguard and first-aid services through Labor Day at Morgan and Pryibil beaches.
The contract is for Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and for Labor Day, for up to four lifeguards each day to assist 13 lifeguards previously hired by the city. Lifeguards will be paid $20 an hour; the firm will be paid an additional fee of $100 per day. Total costs cannot exceed $20,000.
Mayor Timothy Tenke said more than half that amount had been budgeted for city lifeguards’ wages but wasn’t being used because the city didn’t have enough of its own guards.
Glen Cove has had to close either Morgan or Pryibil most days this summer, said city Parks and Recreation Director Darcy Belyea. With the Skudin contract, one beach may be closed sometimes on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday — when there are fewer beachgoers — if there are not enough city lifeguards available, she said.
Complaints surged on June 30, a hot Saturday when Pryibil — by far the most popular of the two beaches — was closed for swimming, and on July 4, city officials said. The city tries to prioritize Pryibil, but it needs more lifeguards than Morgan, so the city sometimes closes it instead of Morgan, Belyea said.
Nicole Szafranski, a Glen Cove lifeguard for eight years, said the city was losing lifeguards and couldn’t attract enough new ones in part because the city didn’t pay them enough. Belyea said average pay was about $14 to $15 an hour.
Tenke said the council would soon discuss whether city lifeguards’ pay should be increased.
Belyea said one reason for the shortage was Nassau’s tough lifeguard certification rules, which go beyond those for other locales.
Craig DeBaun, who administers lifeguard certification for the county, said Nassau required lifeguards for the Long Island Sound to swim 50 yards in under 35 seconds, while other places mandated the ability to swim certain distances but do not time swims.
“When a person’s drowning, that time is very, very important,” he said.
Some Nassau municipalities — including the Towns of Hempstead and Oyster Bay and the city of Long Beach — don’t have a lifeguard shortage, representatives for those governments said.
Nassau has only had to close one of its pools entirely once in the past 15 years, but the county periodically has to close lanes or water features at the Eisenhower Park aquatic center or other locations, said Lisa Dennis, Nassau lifeguard coordinator.