MILWAUKEE - With COVID restriction easing more and more, many people are hoping to hit the pools and beaches in Milwaukee County this summer. But a staffing shortage may prevent that from happening, county officials say.
"We have a crisis going on here," said Supervisor Sheldon Wasserman.
Early Tuesday, May 11, Milwaukee County's Parks, Energy and Environment Committee tackled staffing issues at the county pools and beaches.
"We are behind where we would want to be in order to open all the facilities we would like to and were budgeted for – we are far behind in terms of lifeguard recruitment," said James Tarantino, Milwaukee County Parks' Director of Recreation and Business Services.
Simply put, there is not enough staff to go around.
"In general, in terms of all lifeguards we’re at about 50, I want to say it’s 52. To fully staff all of the facilities in a typical year we would need to be around 200," Tarantino said.
Supervisors say both the pandemic and the pay rate are factors.
"Two of my colleagues recommended that we raise the amount that we pay because of the amount of training that’s involved," said Supervisor Sylvia Ortiz-Velez.
The county says it increased pay to a competitive level back in 2019. But that may not be enough.
"Where we’re at is really only with the ability to open four maybe five facilities with that number of people that does not include Bradford beach," Tarantino said.
Officials also say they do not know yet which locations will be open and closed. But they say one thing is clear.
"What I’d like to say is that we are in dire need of lifeguards. So if anybody out there would like to be a part of the team and help save lives, keep our pools open, and our beach saved – that would be great! We are looking for people," Ortiz-Velez said.
There is plenty of information available about becoming a lifeguard in Milwaukee County.