Council OKs lifeguard funds for relief positions
by Mariko Lamb
Published - 06/13/12 - 03:44 PM | 5642 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The City Council approved more money Monday to fund three relief positions and a wellness program for lifeguards.                                                                          Photo by Jim Grant I The Beacon
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San Diego lifeguards — who said they were left out of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ budget priorities for the coming fiscal year — were saved by the City Council on June 11 at the council’s second public hearing of the mayor’s revised budget.

Councilmembers voted 7-1 — with District 5 City Councilman Carl DeMaio dissenting — to pass the budget, but not before agreeing to revise expenditures to accommodate the lifeguards’ funding request for three relief positions and a wellness program.

“You guys really looked after a group of professional rescuers who look after the public, and you’ve really taken into consideration our health and our well-being,” said Sgt. James Gartland, San Diego Association for Lifeguards.

“We’re going to provide a better service because of these things, and it’s going to give us the relief that we need,” he said.

According to a city Independent Budget Analyst Office (IBA) report, $291,000 will be allotted for three relief positions, including a lifeguard sergeant and two full-time lifeguards, along with $81,000 for the wellness program to monitor health and prevent injuries.

“The restoration of these positions and the flexibility that they offer would lessen the current strain on the lifeguard scheduling system, reduce the use of mandatory overtime to maintain constant staffing levels, and support scheduling personnel training,” said Andrea Tevlin, the city’s independent budget analyst.

A “meet-and-confer” process is currently under way among city management and lifeguards to evaluate the implications and benefits of the wellness program prior to its implementation.

A report on the results of the study will be completed by the end of June.

“I’m anxious to get this program started,” said District 2 City Councilman Kevin Faulconer at the meeting.

“We’ve heard very clearly from the lifeguards that they want to make this a very expeditious process, so I have no doubt that it will conclude quickly.

“It is critically important — as someone who is fortunate enough to represent the beach areas — to have that lifeguard personnel,” he said.

Faulconer also touted other recommendations that were included in the revisions, like the restoration of five civilian police positions and funding for Teen Night programs.

“Particularly over the last several months, there has been a significant amount of cooperation that I haven’t seen in a long time,” said Faulconer.

“I think we’ve had some of the best communication that we’ve had between the legislative branch and the executive branch,” he said. “This has been a collective team effort that has not always been the case, but I think we’ve established a process now that has served the city well.”

Faulconer attributed initiatives like managed competition for saving the city millions of dollars each year.

“We’re here not only because of the council’s leadership and the mayor’s leadership, but also, I believe, some very important tools that the voters, the citizens of San Diego have given this city,” he said. “This has not been easy, but I think the process that has gotten us here is important.”

Lifeguard union representative Sgt. Ed Harris, who spearheaded the plea for funding at the City Council’s first public vetting of the mayor’s budget revisions, thanked the councilmembers.

“Thank you again for all your support and for understanding what we do out there and being close to the issue,” Harris said.

The City Council’s budget modifications have been sent to Sanders for review. With the changes adopted by the full City Council, Sanders will then approve or veto the final budget before the start of the new fiscal year June 30.

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