Next summer, swimmers using Veteran's Memorial Park on Lake Koronis won't see any lifeguards on duty. The city of Paynesville has decided not to hire any this year.
A public beach has been located in the area for at least 70 years. Lura Webb, 83, who grew up on the lake, remembers swimming at the beach when she was a teenager.
In those days, the beach was to the north of Van's Beach Store. Over a quarter of a century ago, the city purchased the land on the other side of the resort where the beach is now located.
Lifeguards, hired by the city, have worked at the beach since at least the early 1950s.
Lifeguards taught swimming lessons at Lake Koronis until 1992, at which time lessons were offered at Rocori High School in Cold Spring.
Dennis Wilde, city administrator, said the difficulty in hiring lifeguards was the main reason for deciding not to hire lifeguards this summer. In the last two years, the city has had problems hiring lifeguards. "This isn't a local problem restricted to Paynesville, but a statewide problem," Wilde said. "There is a lack of licensed lifeguards in the state."
One reason it is hard to hire lifeguards is that the city cannot guarantee a set number of hours. If it rains, the lifeguards close the beach and go home. If the temperature is below 70 degrees, the beach is closed and the lifeguards go home. "Many lifeguards have two jobs and then there is often a scheduling conflict," Wilde said.
The city cannot afford to pay big wages to lifeguards, Wilde added. After advertising for lifeguards and not receiving any applications last year, the city raised their salary from $7 to $8 per hour.
Wilde also mentioned a lack of parental supervision on behalf of a few parents, making it difficult for the lifeguards to do their job Ñ watch the beach.
"We hated to cut the lifeguards," Wilde said.
The city also wanted to get out of the concession stand business, and they had lost $1,500 per year for the last two years. "We'd like to break even, but that hasn't happened," Wilde said.
When the city had four lifeguards, they took turns operating the concession stand. The last two years, the city has had to hire someone to run the stand as there were only three lifeguards.
Wilde said the city would be willing to work with anyone wanting to operate a concession stand at the beach. The city currently has the concession stand up for sale.
Ron Mergen, public works director, said the city is unsure whether they will put the raft out in the lake without a lifeguard on duty.
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