With temperatures soaring into the 90s, the North Fork Pool is a great place to cool off for a couple of hours. There's no shortage of folks looking for swim lessons, lap swimming, physical therapy, water aerobics or just the chance to splash around in the cool water. There is, however, a shortage of lifeguards to keep the pool operating seven days a week as summer winds down.
Pool manager Lenore Cambria is all too familiar with this scenario, which repeats itself every fall. Most of the pool's lifeguards are in college or just graduated from high school and will soon be headed to college. Adult employees have their own obligations. Lifeguard supervisor Kathy White teaches at Hotchkiss High School, and water aerobics/swim instructor Glenda Young is a teacher at Hotchkiss K-8. One by one, the lifeguards drop off the schedule and eventually Cambria is faced with the prospect of cutting back operating hours at the pool. She announced the new hours earlier this week:
Friday, Aug. 3 -- Last day of the pool bus.
Monday, Aug. 6 through Friday, Aug. 10 -- Open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"We will (probably) have our usual hours for Saturday, Aug. 11, and Sunday, Aug. 12, but we may close early those days depending on attendance. Stay tuned for the schedule."
"Our official closing date is Labor Day," she said, "but sometimes in August we end up being open only on weekends, because we don't have enough staff for weekdays. We're always looking for people who can extend the season."
Qualified applicants must be at least 15 years in age and pass the American Red Cross certification test. Physical fitness and the ability to swim are givens; certification can be physically demanding. Coursework also includes hands-on first aid, CPR and AED training. Students must demonstrate they are able to respond safely and efficiently to water emergencies.
Students must be at least 15 years of age to be certified as lifeguards, and 16 years of age to be water safety instructors, but they can begin working as a water safety instructor aide at the age of 14. Hourly pay begins at $10.20 (minimum wage), but there's an opportunity to earn more with increasing responsibilities.
"It's a really good job for kids that age," Cambria said. "That's a nice wage for kids and they learn responsibility. They have to be prepared to save a life."
Glenda Young, lifeguard supervisor, recently qualified to train lifeguards, so next spring the North Fork Pool will be able to certify its own lifeguards, rather than send them to classes at Bill Heddles Recreation Center in Delta.
In addition to lifeguards and water safety instructors, the pool's staff of 30 includes a part-time maintenance man and the bus driver who picks up kids in Hotchkiss, Paonia and Crawford. This service is provided free of charge. Cambria is a certified pool operator (a requirement of every public pool) and district administrator for the North Fork Park, Pool and Recreation District. That means she's also involved with ball fields, playgrounds, tennis courts and the skate park in Paonia, all assets of the North Fork Pool, Park and Recreation District.
The NFPPR was approved by voters in 1993. With generous support from the community, Great Outdoors Colorado, and other funders, the North Fork Swimming Pool became a reality in 1995.
In November, Cambria said the NFPPR will be seeking a mill levy increase. As a result of TABOR, the original mill levy of 1.4 mills has dropped to 0.893 mills.
"Our property taxes have decreased the last two years and have the potential of decreasing further as a result of the Gallagher Amendment," Cambria said. "This, along with the mandatory increase in the minimum wage, puts us in the position that without an increase in our mill levy, we will need to cut services at the pool. We feel that the pool offers a significant service to the people in this valley with fitness, swim lessons, recreation and employment, and that we need to continue providing these services."
The district will be asking for an increase of 1.607, for a total of 2.5 mills.