WHITMAN — Lifeguards at the town pool have earned a raise, and can expect some increase — depending on the end-of season balance from revenues after maintenance expenses are paid.
Much of the problem surrounding the lifeguard pay issue, according to Recreation Commissioners, is rooted in turnover at the director’s position over the last two years, affecting the marketing of pool passes as well as the hiring, scheduling and salary budgeting for lifeguards.
“We apologize that this is happening,” said Recreation Commission member Oliver B. Amado III.
The commission wanted to go on record as recognizing and appreciating what the lifeguards do, often under a broiling sun.
“We’re going to try to do what we can for you,” said Chairman Todd DeCouto. “A mistake was made, unfortunately, but we’re going to do everything in our power to help you.”
The pool account is currently at $5,960.53 with two more weeks of payroll left to be paid out, as well as another $400 to $500 worth of bills, interim Director Dan Mason reported to the Recreation Commission Monday, Aug. 3. Two weeks’ worth of revenue will also be added, but he said he does not expect that amount to be a lot of money.
The last lifeguard payroll was $2,657 for the week.
Four lifeguards, three veterans including supervising guard Judith Gill and one recent hire, attended the Aug. 3 meeting to argue for a raise. Recreation Commission members and Mason agreed the lifeguards deserved a raise. Gill is the only full-time lifeguard.
“They should get paid more,” Mason said of the lifeguards. “They should get paid a lot more.”
But paperwork turned into the town when former Director Emily Richardson left, set the salaries for the year unless the commission decides to distribute any funds left at the Aug. 16 end of the season.
“The problem is getting you your money — and please know we want to do that,” DeCouto said. “We’ve got to find a way to do that.”
“We have to fix what’s broken,” Vice Chairman June O’Leary said.
Many other area facilities pay $13 an hour.
Whitman Pool lifeguard Rachel Baker makes $11 an hour. She also works at Camp Kiwanee in Hanson, doing so last week while putting in 35 hours at Whitman, where guard scheduling has been another issue of concern.
“We’ve all been going overtime this summer because we had about seven people to start the summer off,” Baker said. “In the first few weeks, everybody worked every day.”
She has been a lifeguard in Whitman for five years, has water safety instructor certification and acts in a supervisory capacity, but does not carry the title. She is seeking a $1.50 per hour raise and retroactive payment for the summer to reach parity with another senior lifeguard. Luke Laubacher, working part-time at the pool as a fill-in lifeguard as well as working at South Shore Hospital, is labled as a supervisor on the schedule and makes $12.50 an hour.
“We should be paid the same because we are doing the same exact job, he is a sub this year, I’m even more of an evening supervisor than he is,” Baker said.
Laubacher is also a veteran lifeguard with WSI certification. An EMT, Laubacher plans to study nursing. John Gorman, another senior guard, makes $10.25 per hour and is seeking a raise of 75 cents per hour.
Several other lifeguards are also seeking raises.
Gill is, in fact, the only pool supervisor and is paid $15.25 per hour. She is not seeking a raise, but attended to support her staff.
“What we have done in the past is a 25-cent raise every time you return [for another year] in addition to any raise you would get for qualifications,” Gill said. “That’s the problem a lot of the guards are having.”
The commission will meet again at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 19 to continue discussing the issue when final pool receipts and expenses are expected to be finalized.
“The park just got over the edge today,” said Mason, noting the summer park program has $611 with no bills left to pay. “It will probably have a comma in it at the end.”
Park Program Director Jeannie Angelos has indicated she plans to end her tenure at the end of the year to start a family, Mason said. But Amado added that she has indicated a willingness to return if a new recreation director resumes responsibility for scheduling bus trips as part of the summer program.
In other business, resident Shawn Kain requested information on how to “start the conversation” toward establishing a free-admission public skateboard park in town.
Kain, a special education teacher in Brockton, is a skateboard enthusiast and co-founder with his wife Shannon of The Practice, an indoor after-school program that includes skateboarding. They are in the process of obtaining nonprofit status for that facility.
An account does exist for funds raised toward establishing a public skate park with from $12,000 to $13,000 still in it, commission members said.
Kain said he would not mind coordinating additional fund-raising efforts. Commission members referred him to selectmen Brian Bezanson and Dan Salvucci “who did all the groundwork” on the park project in the past, as well as Assistant Town Administrator Gregory Enos.
“For some reason, it just died,” DeCouto said of the previous effort. “They got the money together and it just stopped.”