At a special meeting on Tuesday night, the Glen Cove City Council voted to contract with a lifeguard management service to augment coverage of Glen Cove’s two open beaches, which have been closed intermittently over the past several weeks — including on July 4, a popular day for beachgoers.
Skudin Swim Inc., a Long Beach-based company, will charge the city a $100 administrative fee per day, plus $20 per hour per lifeguard up to a maximum of $20,000.
Darcy Belyea, who heads the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, said that Skudin pays its guards $15 per hour, adding, “so I don’t know where the extra $5 is going.”
Glen Cove’s lifeguards are paid between $12 and $15, according to minutes from a May city council meeting approving their appointments.
Nicole Szafranski has been a City lifeguard for eight years, and is currently balancing her beach shifts with her full-time nursing job. She said that many of her peers are drawn away from lifeguarding for the city because private pools and other summer jobs pay more.
A Pryibil Beach lifeguard, who declined to provide her name because she was not authorized to speak to the press, told the Herald Gazette that she enjoyed her job because she got to spend her time outside, unlike a summer retail or office job. She would not comment on wage differences between public-sector and private-sector lifeguarding.
Mayor Tim Tenke said that the council would discuss raising lifeguard wages at future council meetings.
Because the city’s lifeguard shortfall, Mayor Tim Tenke said, the city will not use all of the funds it had budgeted for their wages. But according to Belyea, the money to pay for Skudin’s guards will not come out of that account, but instead from the city’s contingency fund.
The closures have been drawing ire from locals. Facebook users in Glen Cove neighborhood groups made liberal use of words like “unbelievable,” “shameful” and “ridiculous.” Tenke and Councilwoman Marsha Silverman both said that they fielded angry calls from residents, one of whom, Silverman reported, told her on June 29 — one of the hottest days of the year to date — that “there would be a riot here if we don’t have lifeguards tomorrow.”
The affair apparently has left Belyea feeling besieged on several fronts, and during the public comment section of the meeting, she spoke emphatically in defense of her department’s efforts.
The anger on Facebook was ill-informed, Belyea said, and failed to take into account the fact that the lifeguard shortage isn’t new, nor is it unique to Glen Cove. For several years, she said, beaches across Nassau County, and across the nation, have struggled to hire lifeguards to watch over swimmers.
Belyea also took issue with the way that the mayor’s office has handled the situation. She alluded to the fact that Deputy Mayor Maureen Badsdavanos “worked around [her]” instead of “together with [her]” on the Skudin contract.
Councilman Michael Zangari said that he thought the problems that Belyea raised were emblematic of larger problems. He asked Belyea whether the Mayor’s office had reached out to check on the lifeguard situation before the summer season started, and whether she felt supported in her department’s other efforts. To both, she replied, “No.”
“If we have an issue with this one area,” Zangari asked, “how many other areas are there where we have these procedural problems? I tell you, it’s a lot.”
Tenke said that the problem was a lack of communication into, not out of, his office, and that he should be notified that there would be beach closings before hand. Belyea responded that during her 22-year tenure, she had never had to provide that level of information, but that she would be happy to.