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Columbia hires additional lifeguards, still dealing with staffing shortages

COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)

The City of Columbia has hired a few more lifeguards, but is still searching for more.

Director of Columbia Parks and Recreation Mike Griggs said the department was able to hire an additional three lifeguards after a class with 12 candidates. This brings the total number of lifeguards in Columbia to 49.

According to a press release, the department is hopeful that the staff shortage will reverse and allow Douglass and Lake of the Woods Pool to open for the summer. The department said it needs a minimum of 70 guards.

Griggs said the department has 24 applicants for an upcoming training session and hopes to hire an additional 12 to 15 lifeguards from the event.

According to a press release, Douglass Family Aquatic Center will open July 1 if enough lifeguards are hired beforehand. The city's pool schedule shows the opening date for Albert-Oakland Family Aquatic Center has been delayed from May 29 to Wednesday, June 9.

"We’re experiencing the same challenges with hiring staff that many are facing right now," said Griggs. "If we don’t have adequate staffing at our pools to ensure safety for our pool users, then that leaves us no choice but to shorten our pool season and possibly not open some facilities. These are difficult decisions but we are hopeful we will still be able to add staff for the summer."

Little Mates Cove will not open at all this year. The city cited structural issues as well as low staffing.

"As the department evaluated all outdoor pool operations, factors including cost of maintenance, infrastructure condition, and number of staff needed to safely operate the facility, were all taken into consideration," a statement on the city's website said. "Unfortunately, Little Mates Cove has some structural issues and combined with the high number of staff needed to maintain and operate the facility, the facility was not funded for the 2021 swim season. This will allow time for staff to develop a budget and future plan on what it will take to open the pool in the future."

The department has three additional training sessions, for those looking to become a lifeguard in Columbia. The dates for Columbia's training sessions are:

  • May 25-27
  • June 4-6
  • June 14-16
  • June 18-20

The training sessions are free of charge, and those looking to register can find more information on the city's website. Lifeguards must be at least 15 years of age.

Fulton Public Information Officer Darin Wernig said the Fulton has had some issues filling lifeguard positions with college-aged people. But, he said with Fulton schools letting out Friday, the city should have enough lifeguards for the summer.

At the same time, The Jefferson City Parks and Recreation department is prepared and staffed to open pools for Memorial Day Weekend.

Assistant Director of Programs with JC Parks Aaron Grefrath said the group is looking forward to getting back open to the public and are hopeful they can do so under normal operating procedures.

Grefrath said the department has seen day camp and summer sport numbers back to where they were pre-pandemic, if not higher. The assistant director says he's hoping this also translates to how many people visit the pool this summer.

JC Parks said it will ensure the safety of not only its staff but also those who visit. Grefrath said while in previous years staff may have still came in if they felt under the weather, they will be taking illness more seriously this coming summer.

Pools are fully staffed and while the hiring process will continue throughout the summer, Grefrath credits the abundance of lifeguards to his team starting the hiring process early.

The assistant director said the release of students from Jefferson City schools has helped tremendously, with the department hiring 115 additional employees from the district.

Boone / Columbia / Fulton / Health / Jefferson City / LIfe / Lifestyle / Local News / Top Stories
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Ben Fein

Ben Fein is a multimedia journalist for ABC 17 News. You can usually see his reports on weekend mornings or weekdays at 5, 6 and 6:30 p.m. on KMIZ.

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