Wrangling Over Town Lifeguards Continues

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By: Michael J. Rausch
Published: 05/24/12

Roberta A. Dwyer stood before selectmen Tuesday night and voiced her anger at the town’s decision to, once again, not staff Gray Gables beach with lifeguards this summer. “I’m very disappointed. I feel like I’m being targeted, and I don’t mean that lightly,” Ms. Dwyer told the committee.

At this month’s Town Meeting, Ms. Dwyer of Gilder Road persuaded voters to add another $25,000 to the lifeguard budget.

Despite Town Moderator Robert W. Parady warning her that her motion could not specify how the money would be used, her hope was that the funds would staff two more beaches in addition to three that were already expected to be staffed, Sagamore Beach, Monument Beach and Electric Avenue Beach in Buzzards Bay. She also hoped that one of the two additional beaches would be the one her home looks out over, Gray Gables.

Ms. Dwyer noted that based on information she received from longtime beach supervisor Judith A. Cox, more swimmers use the Gray Gables beach than Electric Avenue.

Instead, the town opted to add only Hen Cove to the beaches to be staffed, once again leaving Gray Gables unguarded. In his report to the committee Tuesday night, Town Administrator Thomas M. Guerino said it was not possible to fund two beaches for $25,000. He said that it will cost somewhere between $14,500 and $16,660 to staff each beach this summer.

Ms. Dwyer told the committee that she had been told in February that the cost of staffing a beach would fall somewhere between $9,900 and $12,000. She told the committee that had she known the right figure she would have asked for more money when she made her proposal at Town Meeting to have the budget amended.

“It’s like you keep changing the numbers, just so there’s a beach left out, and it’s Gray Gables,” Ms. Dwyer charged.

Bourne Recreation Department Director Krissanne M. Caron admitted that she misspoke when she told Ms. Dwyer, back in February, about the cost of staffing a beach. Ms. Caron explained that the recreation department had not factored in payroll items such as workmen’s compensation and unemployment insurance, which led to the higher figure. “Based on what we know now, we can’t do it for that number,” Ms. Caron said.

Selectman John A. Ford Jr. asked if they had a swimming instructor stationed at Gray Gables, could the instructor serve as the beach’s lifeguard?

Ms. Caron’s answer to this was “no.” She said a minimum of two lifeguards would be needed wherever lessons are offered, so that one lifeguard is monitoring what is going on in the water.

Mr. Guerino added that he will not staff a beach with only one lifeguard, citing as his chief reason the tragic case of Molly Bish in Warren. The 16-year-old lifeguard was kidnapped and killed while working alone at a beach in June 2000.

“I will not, on my watch, ever have one lifeguard on duty at any beach,” he said.

Ms. Dwyer then suggested that if the town paid the lifeguards less, they could afford to put lifeguards at Gray Gables. Ms. Caron said that the town offered a competitive salary based on what neighboring towns have offered. She noted that she has already lost several prospective lifeguards to towns that were paying more money.

“You have to pay to get good quality lifeguards,” she said.

Newly elected board member Linda M. Zuern said she found it “disturbing” that the town could not find a way to hire lifeguards for Gray Gables beach.

She suggested that the town consider doubling the cost of swimming lessons to help pay for additional lifeguards.

Ms. Zuern made a motion that the board direct the town administrator to find a way to place a lifeguard at Gray Gables beach. That motion was not seconded.

 

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