In yet another sign of the Florida Keys’ affordable housing crisis, the City of Key West may close the public pool in Bahama Village because it can’t find lifeguards to staff the pool.
Currently, the city has one lifeguard and that person is looking at taking another position. The city needs a minimum of three lifeguards for the community pool, Key West City Manager Patti McLaughlin said.
On Nov. 15, city spokeswoman Alyson Crean issued a news release and social media blast seeking potential lifeguards.
“The City of Key West is looking for lifeguards at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Pool, the release stated. “We’re seeking responsible individuals to operate the pool and keep it safe. The ideal candidate would recognize and eliminate or minimize potentially dangerous situations with an emphasis on prevention.”
At the next day’s City Commission meeting, McLaughlin addressed the board about the dire situation with the community pool, which has been there since 1955. McLaughlin said the city has “critical need” for lifeguards, referring to the situation as “disturbing.”
“We will have to shut it down, possibly within a couple weeks, if we can’t hire some people,” McLaughlin told The Key West Citizen following the meeting.
At the meeting, city officials also talked about the need to hire more city bus drivers. The city has six full-time bus drivers with commercial licenses but needs five more with commercial licenses and needs three more without commercial licenses, McLaughlin told The Citizen.
The city currently needs about five “temporary” drivers to fill in when full-time drivers are out sick or on vacation, McLaughlin said.
Regarding the pool, when the sole lifeguard goes to lunch, it has to close, McLaughlin said. The pool is scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
The lifeguard position requires current certifications as American Red Cross Lifeguard or the equivalent, as well as current certification in CPR and First Aid.
The City of Key West pays lifeguards $15.30 and offers health insurance benefits, paid holidays and a pension plan.
“I don’t want to see it closed, but we can’t have it unsupervised,” said City Commissioner Clayton Lopez, who represents Bahama Village.
The city has been struggling to recruit lifeguards there for a while, Lopez said. The lack of lifeguards underscores the need for local apprenticeships and other job training programs, Lopez said.
The community center also is in need of repairs, and the city could try to recruit lifeguards while the repairs are being made, Lopez proposed.
Employee housing is always a concern, as local elected officials and business leaders have declared the lack of affordable housing a crisis. There have been several large-scale affordable housing projects, but developers can’t keep up with the demand as transient rentals and second-home owners are taking up much of the housing stock.
If an apartment or rental unit is found, monthly rents can go for $2,000 a month or more for a one-bedroom unit.
Also, Keys cities and the Monroe County government are running out of state-issued building allocations, called ROGO or BPAS units, which are extremely limited in the Keys.
For full details and the job descriptions of both lifeguard and bus driver positions, visit http://www.cityofkeywest-fl.gov online.