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Coulee Region pools facing lifeguard shortages

Updated: Jun. 11, 2021 at 5:10 PM CDT
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LA CROSSE, Wis. (WEAU) - Public pools in the Coulee Region are facing staffing shortages to begin the summer season.

The City of La Crosse opened its three pools last weekend, but Parks & Rec Facility Supervisor Jared Flick says more help is needed to keep them open.

“To manage three pools we need to have upwards of 75 total aquatic staff and we’re just not there, we need more bodies,” Flick explained. “We don’t want to get to a point where we’re shutting down slides or closing down swimming areas because we don’t have enough guards to adequately manage the pools.”

Flick adds current staff are putting in extra hours to make up the shortage.

“Right now we have a lot of our staff that are working seven days a week and they’re working eight, nine, ten hour days,” Flick said.

Holmen Parks & Rec is experiencing similar issues staffing the Holmen Aquatic Center.

Parks & Rec Director Mark Brogan says some lifeguards are being trained completely from scratch to help out this year.

“We only had a handful of people in their young twenties, it’s probably the most 15-year-olds we’ve ever had working,” Brogan said. “You missed a year of new staff, you lost two years of past staff through aging out.”

Brogan says the Aquatic Center was about 12 guards short before it opened, but a mandate from Village officials is helping fill out the ranks.

“The Village of Holmen Board ended up doing some salary raises so we were able to take the starting guards up to $11 an hour,” Brogan detailed.

The City of La Crosse was also able to raise starting pay thanks to a $20K financial gift from Friends of La Crosse Pools & Aquatics (FLPA), with support from the PMG Foundation.

More assistance is needed, so the FLPA and the City are raising money to offset the cost of becoming a lifeguard.

“Paying for your certifications to be a lifeguard are generally expensive, having appropriate swim gear is expensive,” Flick said. “What we want to do is just be able to fundraise to be able to match those expectations and release those burdens from our staff.”

The FLPA is running a $10K community matching challenge gift fundraiser, with the potential to raise an additional $20K from an anonymous donor.

Funds are being accepted through the end of July, and more information can be found by vising the FLPA’s Facebook page.

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