By Dan Spalding
WARSAW – It looks as if the recent pay hike for lifeguards is working.
Unlike last year, when the lack of lifeguards led officials to allow beachgoers to swim at their own risk, the Warsaw Parks Department is on the verge of having a full slate of lifeguards to oversee two beaches in the city.
Earlier this year, the city council agreed to boost a handful of hourly rates for some seasonal workers, including lifeguards. The hourly rate offered rose by several dollars and is now at $14 and $15 per hour.
Since then, the city was able to attract a dozen people to fill the summer roles at Center and Pike Lakes.
Beginning Saturday, June 5, lifeguards will be on duty from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week, pending availability and weather conditions.
“For the most part, we will have Center and Pike Beaches guarded seven days a week,” said Sheila Wieringa, the park department’s recreation director.
Some scheduling conflicts still exist, but Wieringa said they expect to have Center Lake staffed every day this summer.
The other difference – compared to previous years – is that the city worked with Warsaw Community Schools to provide certification for the lifeguards, she said.
The lifeguard situation is a microcosm of what’s happening this year at city hall as Mayor Joe Thallemer’s administration is now reviewing all positions in the city as they work to establish more competitive pay levels.
Thallemer made that clear last month even as the council gave final approval to mid-year pay hikes for all police officers. Entry-level pay will rise ten percent and all officers will receive some level of increase.
The pay hike was approved 7-0 and Thallemer told council that more reviews are in the works, adding, “I don’t know where this ends.”
Thallemer said all employees will be in line for raises this year and pledged it will be more than the one percent hikes provided last year.
The administration is continuing to review salaries to ensure they are competitive, he said.
Other proposals could be heard if officials find other positions are not in line with the competition.