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Mentor keeping majority of outdoor pools closed due to lifeguard shortage

By Maia Belay,


MENTOR, Ohio – A drastic shortage of lifeguards will force the majority of outdoor pools in Mentor to remain closed for a second year.

“We actually decided against getting a membership,” said Nikki Bukovec. “We didn’t feel it was going to be in our best interest with only one pool available to the city of Mentor. It’s going to be crowded and I’m not willing to take my two small children there.”

Two of the city’s three pools will be closed. The Garfield Park Pool and Morton Pool and Spraypark will not open to the disappointment of families who have to travel farther to cool off. The city’s largest Civic Outdoor Pool will open Monday.

“It’s really sad, you know, for the kids. Normally the splash park is open, makes it real convenient,” said Ann Spriggs at Morton park with her family.

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City of Mentor Recreation Superintendent Nita Justice said 80 to 90 lifeguards are needed in order to operate all three pools.

So far 32 lifeguards are on staff. Justice said it’s difficult to compete with job opportunities some may consider more desirable.

“They’re starting rate is $13 an hour, which is a dollar more than last year,” said Justice. “Our competition are the Chipotles or the fast food places that are offering college tuition reimbursement, free meals at every shift that they work.”

Learn-to-swim classes at the Civic Pool are also canceled due to a shortage of lifeguards and water safety instructors. However, private lessons are expected to still be offered.

“It’s going to hurt everybody,” said Shawn Paul, who plays pickleball at the courts nearby. “It’s going to hurt people who aren’t financially stable.”

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Justice said pool membership prices were not raised despite an increase in maintenance costs.

“We’re trying as hard as we can to try to get lifeguards and train them,” said Justice. “We’re offering reimbursement options for those that want to get certified and then again, offering them the incentive pay. So, hopefully they’ll get trained through us to work with us and then we’ll have them all ready to go for next summer.”

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