Albemarle Parks and Recreation institutes policy for flotation devices; lifeguard mentions harassment
Published 3:02 pm Thursday, June 29, 2023
The City of Albemarle Parks and Recreation Department has issued a new policy in terms of its swimming pools regarding personal flotation devices (PFDs).
At Monday’s recessed meeting of the Albemarle City Council, AP&R Director Lisa Kiser and Athletics and Aquatics Program Supervisor Payne Caulder spoke to Council.
Kiser, referring to the June 19 city council meeting, said “there were a couple of things that I wanted to clear up that were said that weren’t exactly totally true.”
The AP&R director said lifeguards “are always watching” and the pools have a “100% safety rating. They are not unsafe.”
Mayor Ronnie Michael said Council should give staff instructions on the new policy “but we should not take a vote. We should have (city staff) enact their own policy.”
The policy presented to Council will prevent pool patrons from bringing personal PFDs to Rock Creek and Chuck Morehead pools. The city has six PFDs at each pool, Kiser said, and more will be purchased at a cost of between $840 and $1,240.
Those using PFDs “will be asked to stay in the shallow end of the pool, between the 1 foot and 3 feet depth marks,” according to the policy. Patrons in PFDs must also be accompanied in the pool by an adult 18 years or older and “must stay within arm’s reach of the patron with the PFD.”
The city’s PFDs will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, and devices must be returned to the pool office after use for cleaning.
“Outside personal flotation devices, floats and other toys are not allowed,” the policy reads.
Patrons will also need to pass a swim test administered by an AP&R lifeguard in order to access the diving board.
According to paperwork submitted by AP&R, in the 2024 pool season, the total cost for the new policy will be between $18,000 and $21,500. This includes 12 new PFDs, storage solutions, four rule signs and six new signs for the pool areas, along with six additional staff at between $10 and $12 per hour.
Michael said Council needed consensus to allow staff to proceed with the policy, which the Council gave.
One concern brought forth by one of the staff lifeguards, Cohen Whitley, to Council regarded lifeguards being harassed on social media and in person. He mentioned lifeguards having their pictures taken, most of them minors and in their bathing suits.
“(It) is definitely not OK,” Whitley said. “Instead of harassing lifeguards, especially in a time where there are plenty of lifeguard shortages, we should be celebrating lifeguards willing to come in day in and day out and work to serve the community.”
Whitley said he saw saves and assists increase in 2021, with pools shut down for COVID the year before. He said he thinks “it was due to the fact that children weren’t in the water for a year with no swim lessons.”
Councilman Bill Aldridge said the city’s safety record regarding pools speaks for itself.
“I hope and pray it stays the same, but for a member of the city staff to stand up here and to say they are being harassed, and pictures are being taken of them, is totally unacceptable,” Aldridge added. “I encourage lifeguard staff or any city staff on duty, if you see somebody taking your picture or harassing you, call the police immediately.”