The national lifeguard shortage impacting communities across Canada nearly resulted in the closure of Meaford’s public outdoor swimming pool. A season closure of the Blue Dolphin public swimming pool was avoided on Monday after council approved an agreement with the Grey-Bruce YMCA.
“In January of 2023, staff began the recruitment process to obtain lifeguards and instructors to operate the Blue Dolphin Pool for the upcoming season. To date, the Municipality has only been able to secure 4 of the 10 positions required to operate the pool. Staff continued to attempt to fill these positions while they began to review additional options to operate the pool for the upcoming season,” municipal staff advised in a report to council. “Staff reached out to the YMCA Owen Sound Grey Bruce to inquire if there was interest to partner with operations for the 2023 season. The YMCA reviewed their current capacity and were able to provide the Municipality a proposal. The proposal included a list of responsibilities required by each party, a proposed swimming schedule, and a copy of the current rates and fees from the YMCA. The new proposal would delay the opening of the pool from June 5th until June 19th 2023.”
In order to operate safely, the Blue Dolphin Pool requires nine certified lifeguards along with one pool assistant. Staff advised council that with just four lifeguards secured to date, the pool would not be able to operate in 2023. Typically the municipality received eight to ten resumes for certified lifeguards each season, however the national shortage of certified lifeguards has resulted in stiff competition among municipalities attempting to secure lifeguards for their public swimming pools.
Councillor Steve Bartley noted that three of Meaford’s previous lifeguards had been drawn away to Owen Sound where wages offered are significantly higher than what Meaford was able to offer.
“Additional recruitment measures were implemented in 2023 to try to secure lifeguards for the upcoming season. Some of these measures included additional marketing specifying the need for lifeguards, attending job fairs in the local area, repeated requests through the municipal website and social media through March and April, and the implementation of a yearly payment to help cover the expenses of mandatory lifeguarding certifications,” staff told council.
Facing the prospect of the pool remaining closed for the season, staff presented council with three options:
1. Full operation by the YMCA, including YMCA program registration and fees
2. Operation by YMCA Grey Bruce for fee on tender basis
3. Closure for 2023 season.
After significant discussion, council opted for the first option, which will see the YMCA take over operation of the pool for the 2023 season.
Under the terms of the agreement with the Owen Sound/Grey-Bruce YMCA, the YMCA will operate the pool for 2023 on behalf of the municipality, which will include delivery and direct programming of all aquatics related programming, hiring, training, scheduling, payroll, supervision, and performance evaluation of staff, collecting all aquatics related fees, and scheduling of Blue Dolphin Pool. Additionally, “rates and fees, including but not limited to pool rentals, lesson fees, day and season passes, will be determined by the YMCA. All revenues will go back to the YMCA to cover staff wages, program development, delivery and materials, operations and administrative fees.”
Responsibility for maintenance of the facility, including any capital repairs or investments will remain with the municipality.
While the agreement will save the 2023 season for Blue Dolphin Pool, there will still be a delay in opening the pool to the public this year.
“Due to the short notice of this arrangement, the pool will not open on June 1 as scheduled,” staff advised council. “The YMCA believe that opening on Monday, June 19 is the best case scenario.”