Town’s Budget Amended To Add Even More Lifeguards

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By: Diana T. Barth
Published: 05/10/12

Just after Bourne’s recommended Fiscal Year 2013 budget was presented to Town Meeting voters on Monday night, Roberta Dwyer of Gray Gables rose to ask to amend it. She proposed that $25,000 in free cash be earmarked for recreation department salaries and expenses, hoping that the town will use that money to add two more beaches to the three that were expected to be guarded this summer.

Last June, not long after the majority of Bourne residents came to the realization that the budget approved at last spring’s Town Meeting had not funded lifeguards, Ms. Dwyer, whose home overlooks the Gray Gables beach, spearheaded a drive that turned in a petition aimed at requiring the town to fund lifeguards on at least some of the town beaches last summer. The filing of that petition forced the town to hold a July 24 Special Town Meeting to address bringing lifeguards back to Bourne’s beaches before swimming weather ended last summer.

The proposal failed by 41 votes at Town Meeting. Selectmen, however, got the message. They agreed that, despite layoffs and other budget woes, they probably should have left some funding in the budget for lifeguards and pledged to make money available to staff at least three beaches this year.

Ms. Dwyer, who heard Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino propose using that funding for lifeguards and swimming lessons at Sagamore Beach, Monument Beach, and the Electric Avenue beach in Buzzards Bay, thought at least five of Bourne’s beaches should be covered.

In arguing her case, Ms. Dwyer told voters she thought lifeguards provided an essential service for beach communities and considered the $25,000 she was requesting a “life insurance policy.”

While she specified that she would like to see Hen’s Cove and Gray Gables added to the list of three beaches town department heads and the administrator had proposed guarding, Town Moderator Robert W. Parady warned her that her motion added funding to the recreation department and could not, as a budget amendment, specify how and where that money should be used.

Later this week, Selectman Peter J. Meier worried that $25,000 might not be enough money for two more beaches and expressed concern that it might be difficult for Bourne Recreation Department Director Krissanne M. Caron to find people qualified to staff those beaches in the time remaining before the swimming season starts.

Lifeguards, even if they are certified or have worked for the town in past years, must pass an evaluation. The town will need to advertise the positions, interview the candidates, evaluate them, and conduct background checks before they can be brought on board. Mr. Meier said he knows Ms. Caron would do her best, but did not want citizens to blame her if there is not enough time.

Michele W. Ford, chairman of the Bourne Finance Committee, spoke against the amendment on Monday, saying that the lifeguards would not necessarily have been the town’s highest priority if it had an extra $25,000 to spend. She urged against using savings to add the lifeguard funding to the recommended, balanced budget.

Ronald P. Majewski, a Monument Beach resident, thanked selectmen for revisiting the lifeguard issue. He said, however, that the past decision not to fund lifeguards had done a lot of damage, and he thought the passage of Ms. Dwyer’s amendment would send the message, “loud and clear, that Bourne is back.” Mr. Majewski said the town’s reputation, as well as safety, is on the line.

John E. York of Cataumet asked for a breakdown of the recreation budget so he could determine the cost of providing lifeguards. Mr. Guerino said it costs between $14,516 and $16,662 to staff a beach at a salary between $11 and $12 an hour.

Mr. Guerino also said that a “swim at your own risk” sign was adequate to protect the town from liability if no lifeguards are provided.

After the moderator determined that a voice vote on the amendment was too close to call, the counted vote was taken. It passed, by 84 votes, 195 to 111. The entire operating budget, as amended, was approved unanimously by voters.

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