Council funds lifeguards for return to North Beach

Council funds lifeguards for return to North Beach
The Carlsbad City Council agreed to staff North Beach with lifeguards for the 2018 swimming season and thereafter explore outsourcing the program to another outfit. The state parks department already provides lifeguards for the remainder of beaches in Carlsbad like this one at Carlsbad State Beach. Courtesy photo

CARLSBAD — One thing was clear: Having the city provide lifeguards along North Beach from Oak Street to the Oceanside border is a “no brainer.”

City Councilman Keith Blackburn’s statement, along with every other council member’s, relayed the necessity and importance of lifeguards along the beach, even though the city has no legal obligation to do so.

However, the council had slightly different opinions on who would perform those duties, the city or a contracted agency. In the end, they agreed on a hybrid approach where the city will conduct the initial staffing before submitting a request for proposal for contractors, which possibly could include the California State Parks, which covers the remaining stretch of beach in Carlsbad.

This year’s lifeguards are expected to begin work in March, or at least before Memorial Day and continue after the summer season.

Carlsbad Fire Chief Mike Davis said the city and other agencies would continue to work together despite different areas of control.

“There is no line in the sand when serving the community,” he said.

According to Jason Haber, assistant to the city manager, the plan allows the city to assert control over its lifeguard program from the beginning, yet if the council does not approve of any RFP, it can move forward with its own program and certification requirements. The estimated cost for the hybrid option is $350,000 per year.

Blackburn and Councilwoman Cori Schumacher preferred for the city to implement its own program and certifications without any RFP. The estimated cost was $550,000 per year with a one-time start-up cost of $50,000, Davis said.

Schumacher said having the city run its own program, along with having an “advanced” level of lifeguard training, would relieve stress from Carlsbad Fire Department Station No. 1, which responds to calls at North Beach.

Blackburn agreed with her assessments and added he preferred to have immediate control to deliver the high quality of service expected from residents and visitors.

Mayor Matt Hall, along with Councilmen Michael Schumacher (no relation to Cori) and Mark Packard, said the hybrid gives the city flexibility, especially from a financial standpoint. Additionally, the hybrid will give the city comparative data to determine whether contracting or conducting the program itself is the better investment.

“I want that control,” Blackburn said. “I don’t want to contract it out.”

Haber and Davis touted the success of the 2017 pilot program. Although hastily put together, the program was a huge success, Haber and Davis reported to the council. Haber noted during the timeframe, from Memorial Day to Labor Day 2017, zero deaths were reported and the program reached more than 20,000 people from medical responses to educational discussions.

However, another discussion must begin soon which concerns the residents along Ocean Street. Davis said those talks will center on lifeguard towers and how best to prevent obstructed views and placement.

Finally, city staff will also focus efforts on cost recovery programs such as instituting a Junior Lifeguard Program and Beach Kids, where youths are taught about beach and ocean safety.

The city or contractor would be certified through the United States Lifesaving Association, and staff would then train employees.

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