BAXTER — Whipple Beach will be without lifeguards this summer for the first time since 1998.
The Baxter City Council learned Tuesday not enough people applied for the positions to keep a rotation of two lifeguards on duty on the public beach. On busy summer weekends, the beach may have 400 to 500 people there to enjoy the sand and water. Traditionally lifeguards took up their perches on Whipple Beach on the second Friday of June. But this year, the city had an unusual problem despite doubling its advertising efforts — not enough applications. Trevor Walter, public works director, said it’s the first time the city has had trouble attracting applicants. With the deadline approaching, city staff questioned if there was now enough time to try again for applications and get those lifeguards ready and in place for the summer beach season.
Four people turned in applications. The city wanted to hire six lifeguards.
So Tuesday the council agreed to cut the staffing down to two beach attendants. The beach attendants will provide a city presence at the beach, but won’t be doing lifeguard duties. Because the city can use one beach attendant for each shift, Baxter expects to be able to cut its budget in half for the summer. The four lifeguards who applied will be asked if they are interested in the beach attendant position.
The city has an operating budget of $16,200 for Whipple Beach. Lifeguard staffing was approved at a cost of $13,900 with operating supplies of $2,300.
Baxter city staff reported the city actually reduces its liability by not having any lifeguards, thus removing public perception the beach is safely monitored.
Brainerd also cut its lifeguards at the swimming beach at Lum Park as part of budget cuts in 2003.