Lifeguard shortage causes delay in New River Pool opening, community pushes for hiring incentives

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BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Like many cities across the country, Beckley is facing a lifeguard shortage; a problem local officials and community members are trying to solve.

Brian Brown is a local realtor and Beckley resident. He thinks the age requirement to be a lifeguard should be lowered to 16 in order to recruit more applicants.

“If you catch them early enough, even training 15, 16-year-olds to get them certified, then you at least have them for two years and you’re able to repeat the cycle,” said Brown.

But changing the age will not solve all of the problems for the New River Pool. According to West Virginia labor laws, lifeguards have to be 18 or older to operate the waterslide.

The city previously offered $12 to $15 an hour for a lifeguard position to address the shortage.
But Director of Parks and Recreation, Leslie Baker, says there were still very few applications.

“We have a mall here, we have lots of fast food, we have other alternatives for young people to work between those ages so yes, I believe that it’s going to be a challenge from now on out,” said Baker.

The City of Beckley is already planning for a shortage next year, working with the YMCA for a potential partnership with lifeguards at their indoor pool.

“I’ve already spoken to the YMCA and we’re going to work on a plan throughout the winter and hopefully this won’t happen again in 2022,” said Baker.

Final decisions about changing the age requirement will be made at the city level.

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