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City of Syracuse short on lifeguards heading into summer season

Ellen Abbott
Syracuse Parks commissioner Baye Muhammad stands next ot the Thorndon Park pool, one of eight in the city.

The city of Syracuse parks department has a big "help wanted" sign up, because there aren’t enough lifeguards to staff the city’s eight outdoor pools this summer.

The pool at Thorndon Park is filled and ready to go, but a shortage of lifeguards could put parts of the upcoming swim season in peril. Parks commissioner Baye Muhammad says the city still needs to hire 53 lifeguards to open all pools in the city.

And if they don’t find lifeguards?

“We’ll have to decide is this pool going to be open, is that pool," Muhammad said. "So we will have to downsize, but we’ll have to make a decision that makes sense to the people who live here.”

Muhammad says there was also a shortage last year going into the swimming season, but says it’s worse this year. Once again he’ll go to the Syracuse Common Council to ask for a wavier to hire lifeguards who live outside of the city.

“If we go outside, like we did last year, we do an annual waiver to hire outside," Muhammad explains. "We didn’t have a problem last year, I don’t suspect we’ll have a problem this year.”

He admits the pay for lifeguards in the city is on the low side, although the rate has jumped up to $9.50 an hour to make the job more attractive.

“Last year we started out $8.15 and $8.50, something like that," Muhammad said. "We got a little bump. We are less than the county and the state, but they have less pools than we do, so there’s more opportunity to work and get some hours.”

He says swimming is an important recreation option for kids in the city, especially at a time when there are so many more distractions out there.

“There’s no reason why somebody can’t learn to swim in the city," Muhammad said. "We offer lessons all year. We have indoor pools. But as a parent, I have to push my child a little bit, and if I’m a guardian I have to push my children a little bit, because there’s so much more to get into. And a lot of it’s sedentary.”

The city will take applications on it’s website or at the parks department office on Spencer Street.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.