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Austin Lifeguard Shortage Delays Some Pool Openings

Updated: Monday, June 9 2014, 03:35 PM CDT

Only about half of Austin's pools are open today because of a lifeguard shortage. The city says they're about 300 short.

The city started recruiting last October to fill the need, but in April they were still about 500 lifeguards short. That number has reduced, but is still significant.

Justin Ayala dove in just in time. "Recognized a distressed swimmer and jumped in the water," said Ayala.

Today he made his first rescue in three years of lifeguarding, but the 17-year-old knew exactly what to do. "She came up and everything was alright and then her head just started bobbing up and down and said help," said Ayala. "That's when I knew just to get in the water."

This is why training is so important, but it could also be one reason why there's a lifeguard shortage. "I was a lifeguard when I was younger and I remember going through the training and it is quite extensive," said Sherry Montoya, a grandmother. "I don't know if that is one of the reasons."

Right now Austin needs 300 more lifeguards. "I'm really surprised because it's so hard for kids to get jobs these days," said a mother, Andrea Harrington.

The shortage is delaying the opening of about 17 city pools. "We won't open a pool unless it's safe, unless it's adequately staffed," said Paul Slutes, an aquatic supervisor for the City of Austin.

Filling the positions is such a challenge, the city bumped up the pay to help entice applicants. "For 17 and up, it starts at $10.25 and hour," said Slutes. "That's a pretty good price right there for lifeguards."

"I've actually recruited a few of my friends so I'm hoping that with that more people will join," said Ayala.

Ayala says he can't imagine doing anything else, but admits the responsibility is real. "It's pretty serious. Every day I think about the people around me," said Ayala. "Their lives are in my hands."

Tuesday from 4-8 p.m., the city is holding a job fair for lifeguards. It will be held at the Aquatics Office across from Deep Eddy Pool. For more information on lifeguard positions, click here.

List of open and closed pools:

By Deeda Payton

Austin Lifeguard Shortage Delays Some Pool Openings

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