Sparwood Aquatic Centre to maintain schedule despite staff shortages

District councillors voiced approval for the centre to incur overtime

The Sparwood Aquatic Centre will begin incurring overtime to pay staff due to shortages in order to maintain its opening schedule.

District of Sparwood Director of Community and Facility Services, Duane Lawrence asked the council to voice its preference on options for the facility due to issues hiring new staff and lower attendance rates, saying that “recruitment not only in Sparwood but across the province is very challenging for recruiting new lifeguards…we’ve been actively looking for more casuals for about 10 months with limited success.”

As a result, Lawrence asked whether the councillors preferred the centre incurring overtime pay in the event of illness or staff shortages, or the closure of the facility when there was no staff available.

Councillors were mixed in their preferences, with Cr. Jarina and Cr. Saad voicing support for incurring overtime in order to keep the centre open.

Cr. Jarina said he believed keeping the pool open even while incurring overtime would cause less problems than closing it sporadically, while Cr. Saad agreed.

“I think it needs to stay open for people to accept it, and I think if we start closing (the centre) we’re going to lose that many more staff,” said Cr. Saad.

Councillors Cardozo and Bowen were on both sides of the fence, agreeing that they believed it should stay open, but raising concerns about attendance.

“You can’t continually operate on overtime,” said Cr. Bowen, pointing to low attendance rates over the last few months.

Cr. Christensen also talked about attendance, but supported keeping the centre open as much as possible with the proviso that they re-assess the situation in the future if overtime costs continued to rise.

As a result, Mayor Wilks summarized councillors direction as approval to incur overtime pay “to maintain as much of the typical schedule as possible,” but added that if overtime costs continued to rise the district would revisit the issue.

On the request of reducing hours to reflect attendance, councillors were mixed, but most believed it was best for Lawrence and his staff to make a call.

“You and your staff are best places to understand whether you even need to do it,” said Mayor Wilks.

According to Lawrence’s report, average attendance for the centre’s entire swim program in September was 148 – including an average of one attendee each Sunday for the 5 p.m – 6 p.m slot.

Pool regulations require there be a minimum of two lifeguards on duty at all times the facility is open to the public, or one lifeguard and one support person trained to aid the lifeguard.

Lawrence reported that if a Covid-19 isolation event affected a lifeguard, potential weekly overtime pay could range between $600 and $1,000 per week to cover 32 lifeguard hours at time-and-a-half.

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