By Sam Richards
(Friday, April 1) Rossmoor’s outdoor swimming pools now will have times with no lifeguard on duty, after the GRF Board on Thursday voted to open those pools even when there isn’t a lifeguard available to cover all pool open hours.
The Board voted 6 to 3 (with “no” votes from Dale Harrington, Paul Moderacki and Leanne Hamaji) to allow the pools at Dollar and Hillside to operate “on a limited basis” without lifeguards. Those hours were not specified in the motion, but it was stated at the meeting that the intent is to cover the busiest hours at both pools – typically mid-morning to mid-afternoon – with lifeguards and leave uncovered the lesser-used times when a lifeguard isn’t available.
To start, Dollar Pool, which is open 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., will have a lifeguard on duty from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Wednesday, the pool is open only from 1 to 8 p.m., with the first four hours covered.
Jeff Matheson, GRF’s director of resident services, said GRF has not been able to hire enough lifeguards to keep all three pools fully staffed. Rossmoor has been far from alone in this predicament; public and private pool operators regionally have all had trouble finding enough lifeguards amid the “Great Resignation.” This situation has developed in Rossmoor despite relatively high pay and vigorous outreach to various swim teams and colleges via social media and other channels.
Matheson told the Board that GRF’s insurance providers have said GRF can do this, as long as the proper warning signs are installed, and with the proper safety equipment, which he said is already on hand.
Matheson noted that Rossmoor lifeguards “have their skills tested” more frequently than guards at most pools, with trips and falls outside the water making up most safety responses.
Hamaji asked whether swimmers or pool bystanders could get in trouble by trying to save a swimmer in distress. Tom Cashion, Rossmoor’s public safety manager, responded that the state’s “Good Samaritan law” would shield such volunteers from being held liable for something going wrong in those situations.
Harrington said he was loathe to approve any pool hours without lifeguards, noting a large proportion of frail users and users with disabilities in Rossmoor. But Kathleen Stumpfel countered by saying, “If you’re frail, you can decide to go swimming when there’s a lifeguard there.”
The pools at the Fitness Center, where there is also a spa, will continue to be covered by lifeguards at all open times.
The idea of open pool hours without a lifeguard on duty has come up in Rossmoor several times in the past decade, and did so again on Feb. 24, after CEO Tim O’Keefe gave a report about the ongoing problems in hiring enough people for certain Rossmoor jobs, most notably lifeguards and bus drivers.
On March 10, the Aquatics Advisory Committee voted to recommend to the GRF Board that Dollar and Hillside pools should remain open during normal hours even if there aren’t enough lifeguards available to cover all shifts. Having the unguarded hours, committee members said, is preferable to closing the pool when guards weren’t available.