Board of Aldermen approve plan to address staffing shortages at Sunset Hills Aquatic Facility

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An aerial photo of the Sunset Hills Aquatic Facility, 12512 W. Watson Road.

By Lucas Irizarry, Staff Reporter

The Sunset Hills Board of Aldermen approved a plan June 14 to address staffing shortages at the Sunset Hills Aquatic Facility.

Parks and Recreation Director Gerald Brown attributed the shortage to the wage Sunset Hills offers, and an inability to pass the lifeguard test. Brown said the city would need to increase the lifeguard wage from $12 and hour to $13.50 an hour to stay competitive with other facilities. 

“I don’t think money is going to attract people right now,” Brown said. “We’re two weeks into the season, I think people are settled in. That would be a suggestion moving forward, is that we compensate more.”

To increase retention going forward, Brown and city staff suggested seven possible changes, with the priorities being near the top of the list:

• A lifeguard incentive program — bonuses for hours worked over the summer.

• Holiday incentives — bonuses for working on Fourth of July, Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends.

• Cut off offer for weekend pool parties — would save 448 hours per season.

• Overtime opportunities.

• Cut one hour off the end of Saturdays and Sundays, closing time moves to 6 p.m.

• Cut one hour off the end of Tuesdays and Thursdays, closing time moves to 6 p.m.

• Cut one hour off the end of every day.

“If you give me allowance to move through these, we’d just take these to the end of the season. Exploring options for next year … I think the park board really needs to take a look and bring a recommendation to you,” Brown said. “Hourly wage is definitely something I would suggest hiking, maybe some type of signing bonus, maybe if they stay with us for two years they get X amount of dollars.”

Brown said although very few people enter the pool past 6 p.m., those time changes could still have an impact on people getting off work and going to the pool. Ward 4 Alderman Fred Daues suggested leaving the closing time at 7 p.m., but moving the opening time to 1 p.m. to achieve the same effect. Brown said the pool is already in use at that point for swim and dive teams, so the only saveable time is on the backend.

Ward 2 Alderman Casey Wong said he appreciated the suggestions and the need for a better plan moving forward, but he thought the first five options would be enough to get the city through the summer. Brown said he would like to see all seven approved, with each one rolled out in order as needed.

The board voted to allow Brown to implement all seven over the course of the summer as needed.