City Officials Oppose Funding Lifeguards During Private Pool Parties

May 17, 2011
by: 
Dwayne Page
Tony Poss Addresses Mayor and Aldermen

As the opening day of the swimming season approaches, the Smithville Mayor and Aldermen and the tenant of the golf course/swimming pool are at odds on how many lifeguards are needed at the city swimming pool and whether the city should pay their wages during private pool parties.

Last year three lifeguards were on duty at the pool under a previous tenant but Tony Poss, the tenant now, said Monday night during the city council meeting that three is not enough. He is asking for the city to fund at least four lifeguards at the pool this summer, and possibly as many as five. Poss said lifeguards would be needed not just during regular pool hours but during private pool parties at night. "We're going to request that we have five lifeguards there at all times on each shift or a minimum of four to keep that pool safe. Three, we don't feel is enough. We're looking at rotating these four or five lifeguards during the day and have three new fresh ones coming on at night (during pool parties). In my opinion we can't operate this pool with three lifeguards. We can but it is not safe. We need a minimum of four," said Poss.

Mayor Taft Hendrixson asked Poss "Do you know yet what your state requirements are (on lifeguards)?

Poss replied "No".

Mayor Hendrixson answered "Well in my opinion that will determine how many you've gotta have".

Meanwhile Mayor Hendrixson and city attorney Vester Parsley, Jr. argued that the city should not be paying for lifeguards after hours, because private pool parties are privately booked and not generally open to the public. "Pool parties are not open to the public. If you have a party over there at night, your family can't go swim during somebody else's pool party. Whatever you (Poss) charge (for pool parties) should be figured into your charges on that (for lifeguards). Taxpayers shouldn't be paying for private party lifeguards," said Mayor Hendrixson

City attorney Parsley agreed saying "I assume pool parties ought to pay for themselves".

Poss claims nothing in his lease with the city calls for him to hire his own lifeguards during pool parties. He said that's the city's responsibility. "Our impression was that in the contract we have with the city, you guys agreed to pay all lifeguards wages. There were no stipulations about if we had a pool party. When we set our fees on that (pool parties) we were under the assumption that you all were going to pay for the wages". Poss said several pool parties have already been booked at $100 for members and $200 for non-members. "We've done sold memberships based on golf and the pool. We can't go back on that now. That wouldn't be fair," said Poss.

The actual lease states as follows: "The tenant (Poss) shall be responsible for the operation of the Smithville Swimming Pool, to include the hiring of certified lifeguards, however the landlord (City) shall pay their salaries during all hours of operation."

Still, Mayor Hendrixson insists it's not right nor legal for city taxpayers to fund the cost of providing lifeguards during private pool parties. "We have figured approximately twelve thousand dollars for three lifeguards at seven hours a day for nine weeks and it's going to run with benefits, FICA about twelve or thirteen thousand dollars. They will be our employees and we're going to pay for them, but I don't think we can take taxpayer's money and pay for these private parties," said Mayor Hendrixson.

As for the number of lifeguards the city will pay for, Poss and city officials will check with the state to determine the minimum number of lifeguards required per number of swimmers at a given time.

Meanwhile, the aldermen voted 3 to 0 to pay lifeguards minimum wage this summer. Aldermen Steve White and W.J. (Dub) White abstained from voting since Steve's daughter who is also W.J.'s granddaughter has worked at the pool as a lifeguard.

The pool is expected to be open by Memorial Day.

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