WESTLOCK – The hiring of two new junior lifeguards, plus the promotion of one junior to a senior lifeguard, will allow the Westlock Aquatic Centre to reopen on Sundays starting Jan. 30.
Town of Westlock community services director Gerry Murphy said they’re looking forward to the reopening as the facility was forced to close on Sundays starting Nov. 14 due to a lack a lifeguards.
While Murphy said in a previous interview that pools in rural communities across the province were struggling to find and keep lifeguards, the “rollercoaster” opening and closing of the facility last year due to changing provincial COVID-19 restrictions didn’t help.
“Some of our staff quite frankly left for other pursuits because of those openings and closings. And even when we were able to fully open again, most of our staff, the part-time and casual, who are younger, have other commitments. So, the staff that we did have just weren’t able to work all of the shifts that would have been available,” he explained.
“Opening on Sundays was a recent service-level increase too — we started offering it just before I got here so it’s not even a couple of years old. But we’ll be ready and able to safely and effectively open on Jan. 30.”
Murphy said they did examine shaving hours for staff to keep it open seven days a week, but said usage numbers on Sundays typically decline as winter sports ramp up and noted they’ve received little negative feedback.
“There wasn’t a lot of surprise or pushback from residents. And in fact one of the reasons we picked Sunday was that if we didn’t close then it would have impacted other activities and would have affected multiple days,” said Murphy, adding that only four people used the pool on the last Sunday it was open. “Picking Sundays was the least amount of grief and disruption to the programs we offer.”
And while the pool will soon be reopening on Sundays, Murphy said gym users will also soon be able to access that portion of the facility anytime they want as they’ve almost got the 24-hour-access door complete.
“I actually expect it to occur possibly this weekend, but I don’t want to commit to that yet. But certainly, by the beginning part of next week we should be able to add that option for users as well,” said Murphy Jan. 12.