Lifeguard shortage to affect pool openings

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WHEC) – A shortage of certified lifeguards is proving to be very crucial in which swimming pools will actually open this summer, or have reduced hours.

News10NBC takes a look at how nearby Buffalo is coping with its shortage compared to the City of Rochester.

Swimming pools here in Rochester are scheduled to open next week, and right now city leaders say they will remain open all summer. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for our neighbors to the west.

"We’re gonna close all of the outdoor pools because of a shortage of lifeguards," said Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown as he delivered the announcement on Tuesday.

The decision was made after deciding that the lack of lifeguards at their city pools possess too much of a threat to the public’s safety. Here in Rochester, pools open on July 5th according to Michael Corey, the City’s Coordinator of Athletics and Aquatics.

"We’re opening the Willie Lightfoot Pool, and the pool here at the Trenton and Pamela Jackson R-Center, along with Durand Beach," said Corey.

He also says the city currently has enough lifeguards on staff, but they could always add more.

"Right now I know the YMCA’s are doing some monthly trainings for the classes, and we’re always looking to hire. We’ll hire all the way through the summer. As many as we can get," said Corey.

Once a person is certified, Corey says the pay is decent.

"Starting out they’re going to make $15 an hour, and every year they return there is a step increase for lifeguards. There’s also opportunity for promotional positions. Supervising other lifeguards, and the further up you’ll go the more money you will make," said Corey.

We asked him about the worst-case scenario if they were short a few lifeguards on a particular day. What would happen?

"It could possibly make us restrict hours. We could pull from other sites, and accommodate that way, and then shorten some of the hours elsewhere so that all sites are at least are opened some certain time for people to come in and swim," said Corey.

Monroe County leaders tell us they have adequate lifeguard staffing to operate county-monitored swimming areas. Additional staff is currently in the onboarding process, and the county is still accepting applications for full, and part-time lifeguards.

Governor Kathy Hochul also increased the starting pay for state lifeguards who will now earn up to $22 per hour to help ease the shortage.