Belle Terre swimmers concerned with lack of lifeguard

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  • | 4:00 a.m. June 24, 2014
  • Palm Coast Observer
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Linda Russell thought she heard a clap of thunder at the pool. Normally, that wouldn’t be a major event, but she felt the situation was complicated by the recent decision to reduce lifeguard staffing at Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club.

Two Fridays ago, Russell’s Aqua Motion class was submerged for its morning session at the club. After a loud noise, someone emerged from the pool office and said the clamor was just a garbage truck, Russell recalled.

But it became clear that a storm was approaching, and, soon, the roar of nearby thunder was distinct. Again, Russell says, someone came out of the pool office — and this time — the employee blew a whistle signaling members to get out of the pool.

“But people still stayed in the water,” Russell said, “because they were just a person, they didn’t look official — and they weren’t a lifeguard.”

Members report that for the last two weeks that there has been no lifeguard on duty at Belle Terre from the pool’s 7 a.m. opening until 11 a.m. That time period is overwhelmingly reserved for swim classes with trained instructors, but anyone can still swim where there’s room.

At 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, a red sign reading “No Lifeguard on Duty” hung in clear view on a blue display board outside the pool. Two senior water aerobics classes comprised the majority of the 35 people in the water, but there were also a few lap swimmers in a roped-off lane and a handful of children. The lifeguard chair was empty.

The Flagler County School Board operates Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club, and Superintendent Jacob Oliva said it’s currently addressing the recent departure of one of the pool’s full-time lifeguards and also evaluating peak hours for pool use.

“We’re also reorganizing the level of services we provide at the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club, because there’s been a reduction in the number of members,” Oliva said. “So, we have to adjust our resources to meet the demand. We’re identifying the peak hours when we need to provide the most levels of services, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Some members don’t see it that way.

“We understand wanting to cut corners, but not in the summer time,” said Barry Rosen. Rosen also said that there used to be two lifeguards in the afternoon, and now there's only one.

“If it was just us, I wouldn’t be worried,” said Julian Gill, a member of the Silver Sneaker class who has swam at Belle Terre for years. “But you look around, and there are some kids swimming.”

The lack of a lifeguard in the mornings isn’t permanent, Oliva said.

“I just talked to the pool (Monday) morning,” Oliva said, “and we’re looking at changing those hours and bringing lifeguards in at different times in the morning.”

He added: "The fact of the matter is we have less people using our facilities, so we’re adjusting our staffing needs.”

Russell said she has noticed other staffing cuts recently, like the attendant at the front gate to check members’ passes or collect money.

“I worry that they’re going to close the pool, that’s my only concern,” Russell said.

Gill said he and the other seniors depend on the pool to remain active. “We need this pool to stay alive, quick frankly,” he said.


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