BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – With heat returning to the region, many are ready to dive into area lakes and pools.
Most community pools are set to reopen to the public on Memorial Day weekend, but as city officials search for lifeguards to staff those facilities, they’re running into some issues, especially in Bristol, Tennessee.
Bristol officials told News Channel 11 there is a question regarding whether or not they will open the Haynesfield pool at all this summer because they don’t have enough lifeguards.
With four weeks until the official launch of “pool season,” there’s still plenty of prep to be done at the Haynesfield Aquatic Center, such as cleaning and filling the pool. In years past, the Haynesfield facility has been a hot spot on a hot day.
“On any given day, we may have 50 people at Haynesfield pool, we could also have 300. With an outdoor pool, you just never know,” said Mike Musick, Bristol Tennessee’s Recreation Superintendent.
While the attendance is unpredictable on any given day, the staffing should be something that’s set in stone but unfortunately, that’s not the case this year. “We’ve only got about five returning guards, and we’re looking for some back-fill because we’d be hard-pressed to operate with five lifeguards,” said Musick.
In 2021, the pool reopened after a COVID year shut down. It marked the first season the pool had to close since its opening in 1963. Last year, they operated with only 10 lifeguards, meaning they could only open the pool five days a week as opposed to seven.
With only five applicants right now, city officials fear the worst.
“With only five guards, we’re probably not going to open more than a day or two a week, and we don’t want to do that because we want to be able to provide the opportunity – for our community to have a swimming pool,” said Musick.
In a perfect world, the pool would be fully staffed with 15 to 20 lifeguards and open seven days a week starting Memorial Day weekend and closing for the season just after Labor Day weekend.
Normal operating hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Sundays, but this year, that schedule is up in the air.
Carson Latham, a rising high school senior, is returning to his post at the pool for a second summer, only this year he worries about what that summer will look like.
“It just kind of stinks because I really enjoy it, and I had such a good time. I really enjoyed being there all the time that I could be. I really want to work this summer so it really affects me if I’m not able to,” said Latham.
Musick told News Channel 11 there is a discussion about not even opening the pool at all if they don’t get more applicants; that’s why they’re urging people to apply.
Latham said it’s a pretty great gig.
“It’s really fun, and it really looks good on a resume because you have so much medical background that comes into play with it, so please apply,” he said.
Musick said they typically employ high school upperclassmen and early college students, but anyone can apply. Last year, the pool only had ten guards and had to adjust operations to only five days a week, so being short-staffed is not a new concept this year.
For bare minimum operations, Musick said they need anywhere from eight to ten lifeguards, at least.
Typical hours for lifeguard staff range from 25-35 hours a week and pay has been increased to around $13 an hour.
To apply, click here and select ‘Lifeguards and Lifeguard WSI 2022 Season.’