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Budget cuts mean fewer lifeguards this year

May 05, 2010
MEREDITH — Cuts in lifeguard positions are making some town officials uneasy, with the town possibly reaching out to the community for help.

Deep cuts were made into the initially proposed budget for the Parks and Recreation Department following predictions of revenue shortages as well as overall economic strain. Some fees at the community center were changed to bring in more revenue and some programs were modified to save money, including trips to Fisher Cats games in Manchester instead of Red Sox Games in Boston.

As a result of the budgeting, lifeguard positions were cut on town beaches.

Last year, $23,480 was budgeted for beach staff, but only $2,740 was budgeted in 2010 with the cutting of lifeguard positions.

Selectman Miller Lovett expressed concern with the cut, especially the potential for liability.

Warren said the town's liability carrier required proper signage on beaches warning swimmers that there is no lifeguard.

Additionally, staff in the areas will watch for vandalism and rules violations on the beaches.

Lovett asked of money could be put back into that budget. Warren replied it could not under the present circumstances,

"I'm an unhappy camper over that," Lovett said, saying the issue would be brought up again.

"If there was any way possible, I'd like to fund this," said Selectman Nate Torr.

Board Chair Chuck Palm said the lifeguards were at the top of the list of cut items the town would want to get back if money was found.

Selectman Colette Worsman said cuts in service had to be made in order to keep the budget level.

"The families will now take responsibility for their youths," Worsman said. "We cannot deliver the same level of service. While it might be a nice thing, it's a luxury we can't do."

Resident Jim Hughes also voiced his concerns about the cutting of lifeguards, saying swimming at the beach is part of town recreational programs that parents pay for.

"Swimming is a recreational activity that the children and parents use at Leavitt and Waukewan without much expense for the Parks and Rec Department other than lifeguards," Hughes said.

Hughes said this might be an opportunity for local organizations to pitch in. "This is one item I think our organizations should be knowing where the bad cuts hurt the common person and the Town of Meredith."

Palm and Warren said asking local organizations to contribute toward lifeguards would be a good idea to look into.

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