Lifeguard Funds Will Not Come From Beach Sticker Fees
By: Diana T. Barth
Bourne selectmen voted Tuesday to withdraw a proposed warrant article that would have earmarked the proceeds from Bourne’s $15 beach sticker fees to the town’s lifeguard program, if it were to have been approved by voters.
Selectmen had promised to look at possible funding sources for lifeguards in the wake of an outcry over their decision not to fund those positions last season. They are now leaning toward funding the program through the town’s budget.
Bourne Finance Committee members, who met Monday to begin going over the articles proposed for the October 17 Special Town Meeting, had expressed some reservations over the advisability of dedicating sticker fees to the program, particularly given the number of shorefront-related activities paid for by the town. Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino told selectmen on Tuesday that, although FinCom did not take a formal vote, that committee appeared to be leaning toward funding the lifeguard program through the general fund.
Mr. Guerino also told selectmen that he would not recommend dedicating the sticker fees, which bring an estimated $15,000 annually, exclusively for the lifeguard program unless the cost per sticker could be raised. Even were it to be doubled, he said, it would not pay for the program.
He said that Department of Natural Resources Director Timothy Mullen and Recreation Department Director Krissanne Caron expressed concern that raising the fees would mean that fewer stickers would be sold.
Selectman John A. Ford Jr. said he thought that it would be a mistake to make the lifeguard program dependent on sticker revenue. He said he agreed with FinCom that it would be better to fund that effort from the general fund.
Roberta A. Dwyer, who led this past summer’s effort to fund lifeguards until the July 1 end of the fiscal year, for the beginning of next season, said she thought voters had given the selectmen a clear message: they wanted the provision of lifeguards to be a priority.
Donald J. Pickard, chairman of the board of selectmen, said the message had been heard, and the discussion did not center on whether to provide lifeguards, but the mechanism for funding them.
He noted that $30,000 was in the budget article coming to next month’s Special Town Meeting. Some $10,000 of that amount would be used for wages for the lifeguards serving next June, the beginning of the summer season. The remaining $20,000 would pay for first aid supplies and other equipment, items that the program needed to get up and running.
Mr. Guerino noted that buying those supplies, which the program would continue to use throughout the summer season, presupposed that the program would continue to be funded in the new fiscal year.
Ms Dwyer said she was not certain she trusted officials to continue to fund the program through tough economic times without a dedicated source of revenue.
“The people aren’t being heard,” she said.
Ms. Dwyer also asked how many beaches would be staffed, and was told that decision would be made by the town administrator, upon the recommendation of professional staff, including Mr. Mullen and Ms. Caron. Currently, he said, the town was looking at two to three beaches.
Ms. Dwyer wanted to know how the public could weigh in on that discussion. She was told that the decision was the administrator’s, but the public could contribute to the discussion of the budget that would determine how many beaches could be served. Those discussions usually start in January for the fiscal year that starts in July.
Monument Beach resident Ronald P. Majewski said he thought that at least part of the beach sticker fees should be dedicated to lifeguards.
Mr. Pickard reiterated that selectmen had made a commitment and the town would have lifeguards.
Selectman Jamie J. Sloniecki made the motion to withdraw the proposed article, and it passed 4-1, with Selectman Peter J. Meier opposed.
Mr. Meier said after the meeting that he would likely request that an item be added to a future agenda calling for a discussion of raising the fine for parking without a beach sticker.