Lifeguards at the Brookings City Pool and city officials have come to a truce regarding private swim lessons offered in the city-owned pool.
“It’s been an ongoing practice for decades,” said City Manager Gary Milliman. “There was no rules on the books; it was a common practice with the acknowledgement of the pool manager.”
The city has gone through numerous pool managers over the years, and the current one, Vicki Goodman, questioned the ethical rationale behind the lifeguards’ off-duty profit-making ventures, Milliman said.
Goodman said five or six of the 13 lifeguards working at the pool this summer were teaching private swim lessons.
Milliman said they were charging students anywhere from nothing to $15 an hour. Extrapolated to include all the hours of each day the pool is open to public swimming, that could have collectively garnered the lifeguards about $500 a week.
The city pool does not offer private lessons, and those attending group lessons are charged $30 for five swim dates.
“The lifeguards didn’t understand they were doing anything wrong,” Milliman said. “But it was not condoned by management and we directed that it be terminated.”
Since that discussion last week, the two groups have come to an agreement that will allow the city lifeguards to teach students from 4 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday as long as the lifeguard pays the user fee for themselves and the student.
They can then charge the student whatever the two agree upon.
The new rule means that anyone with the appropriate certification can offer private lessons.
“It’s always difficult making a change on a longstanding practice,” Milliman said. “This has been the practice for decades. But it’s inconsistent with ethics. It (the new agreement) establishes the relationship with the local government employee selling their skills while using a government facility.”
The pool offers five to six group swimming classes every half-hour from 9 a.m. to noon. Almost 120 students attended the last two-week session, Goodman said.
“We’re busier than we were last year,” she said. “It’s amazing. The kids come out and swim in this dreary weather. It’s probably because the pool’s warm. It’s not the river.”