City of Austin needs to fill more than 600 lifeguard positions

Scott Cobb is an open water lifeguard for the City of Austin. He has been working at the Barton Springs Pool since 2018.

"It's a great job. Everyone who works at Barton Springs considers that the greatest job they’ve had so far in their lives," said Cobb.

It's fun, but it's also serious at times when drownings have to be prevented.

"We have to save people. There have been incidents of CPR by lifeguards and managers," said Cobb.

However, right now, the city is short on lifeguards which is impacting pools like Barton Springs, which has to remain closed on Mondays and Wednesdays until further notice.

"It's kind of sad when people come up to the pool, and they get disappointed, some get angry....and say why is it closed? We came all this way," said Cobb.

"Dick Nichols Pool is right now ready to go ready to be filled, ready to staff up with lifeguards, but we just don't have the commitment," said Austin City Council Member Paige Ellis on March 31.

That's why she sponsored a resolution passed by city council last month, to figure out ways to recruit more people. They came up with this so far:

  • Offer two $500 bonuses for the mid-season and summer completion
  • Receive $250 bonus if you get open water certification

"I’m very encouraged by Council Member Ellis in sponsoring that resolution," said Cobb.

Ellis' office said the $1,250 bonus would equate to a $4 to $6 an hour raise, based on average number of hours worked.

Although encouraged, Cobb thinks the city should take a different route, and he believes the math wouldn't add up, especially for people who guard year-round.

"Raise the effective living wage to $22 an hour. They've already committed to $500, $500 and $250, so $1250. They need to find an additional $1,500," he said.

Cobb hopes the city can seriously consider his proposal. It may be the way to help fill 600 open positions.

"You need people fast. They need to see the banner, ‘$22 an hour or $2,500 bonus,’ I'm going to that job," said Cobb.

Cobb said Ellis was receptive to his suggestions. She will next speak with the city manager about the issue before final approval.

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