Hillside to be closed on Tuesdays and Fridays; Dollar on Mondays and Wednesdays
By Ann Peterson
Friday, Aug. 13 (11:30 a.m.): Dollar and Hillside swimming pools will be closed on certain days because of a shortage of lifeguard staff – a scenario similar to one that played out in the spring of 2019.
The Aquatics Advisory Committee agreed at Thursday’s meeting that there was no other feasible solution than to reduce opening hours at the two outside pools, starting Monday, Aug. 23. Hillside will be closed on Tuesdays and Fridays, while Dollar will be closed on Mondays and Wednesdays.
The pools will be cleaned on their usual days, Tuesday at Hillside and Wednesday at Dollar, which coincide with days those pools will now be closed.
Currently, two full-time and several seasonal lifeguard positions are unfilled.
A similar situation occurred two years ago, forcing the two outdoor pools to operate with reduced hours every day except on the weekends.
This year, the shortage comes as students return to college and high school. GRF hired several certified lifeguards during the summer thanks to a $250 bonus program, “but most of those we hired are now leaving again to return to school,” said Human Resources Coordinator Jeannine Lawler.
Resident Services Director Jeff Matheson said GRF is “recruiting as vigorously as we can” for part-time on-call, part-time and full-time certified lifeguards. But hiring is tough, especially with the lingering COVID-19 pandemic, extended federal unemployment benefits and a competitive jobs market.
“We are competing with all types of entry-level positions that are now paying higher initial rates,” Matheson said. “Lifeguarding requires certification and ongoing training, which makes it less appealing than other entry-level positions.”
GRF has tried listing the openings on several job sites, including Indeed.com, Craigslist, Localwise, Patch.com and FitnessJobs.com. It is also using social media to recruit.
Matheson said the hours could be modified if recruiting proves successful.
Committee Chair Brian Stack also is trying to help with the effort, saying he has reached out to East Bay Regional Parks, which soon will let go of its seasonal lifeguards. But Stack said he recognizes lifeguard shortages aren’t exclusive to Rossmoor.
“I’m connected to aquatics in the East Bay and all over California,” he said. “This is really a widespread problem all over the country.”
Committee member Vivian Clayton asked if they should consider letting residents swim at their own risk on the two days the pools are closed. Perhaps residents could even be required to sign a disclaimer.
“Even if you have a signed disclaimer, that doesn’t mean you can’t be sued,” Stack said.
“More likely will be sued,” committee member Richard Geissner added.
Matheson noted that by code, Rossmoor doesn’t have to staff the pools with lifeguards, though they should be consistent, meaning they either staff with lifeguards all the time or not at all.
“I would strongly suggest that lifeguards are essential,” he said. “We have too many examples where the lifeguards were needed in the pool, on the pool deck, in the parking lot. There have been too many times where their services were needed.”
The committee agreed, including Clayton after hearing the rationale, that lifeguards and the reduced hours are the only options.
“It’s necessary,” Committee member Vivian Clayton said. “There’s really no other choice.”
Catherine Robinson-Walker added, “We don’t like hearing this, anymore than I think Jeff likes having to tell us. I think this will be a big blow to the community.”
In other news, the committee voted 4-1 to close the outdoor pools during the winter months, from November to March 1, as had been done since 2009 until last year. The pools remained open year-round last year because Tice’s indoor pools were closed due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The committee also unanimously agreed that should Tice have to close again, resources should be reallocated to reopen the outdoor pools during the winter.
The committee also heard from two residents who had concerns about Family Swim at Hillside taking time away from residents who swim. One suggestion was to share Family Swim with the other Rossmoor pools. Currently, Family Swim is offered at Hillside for two hours on weekdays and three hours on weekends.
With Family Swim set to end on Labor Day (Sept. 6), Stack suggested that no changes be made this year.
One of the Residents Forum speakers, Renee Lee, also noted the difficulty she has had finding an open disabled parking space.
Although adding more disabled parking at Hillside would be a very involved and costly project, Matheson noted that the committee can recommend it as a capital project (which comes from the trust estate fund, not the monthly coupon).
“I want to register our concern about the handicap parking issue,” Robinson-Walker said, “to show that we’ve heard the concern and feel it should be addressed.”