Langley Olympians Swim Club (LOSC) head coach Brian Metcalfe calls the Langley Township decision to charge the club extra for lifeguards “absolutely baffling.”
It started in August, he said, when the club, which had lost its practice spaces due to the COVID-19 lockdown, was able to resume practices at the reopened Aldergrove pool.
“They were asking for [us to pay for] two lifeguards and we said we couldn’t afford it,” Metcalfe recalled.
In a compromise, he said one lifeguard is being paid for by the Township, and one by the club.
Metcalfe said the Township has now advised the club it will have to pay for the time of two lifeguards at the Walnut Grove pool when practices resume at that facility, in order to have them temporarily move a bulkhead to make the main pool 50 metres long, which is the Olympic distance.
“It’s absolutely baffling,” Metcalfe said, because swimmers from the Abbotsford chapter of the club can practice in an Abbotsford pool without paying extra for lifeguards.
What’s different, he said, is the Abbotsford pool allows other admissions-paying swimmers to use other parts of the pool during practices, up to a maximum number that is considered safe.
Club volunteer Kristi McIntosh said the extra fees are driving up expenses for families.
For her, the lifeguard surcharge works out to $110 per month extra per child.
Since she has two kids in the club, “I personally have paid an extra $880 for this policy since Aldergrove opened,” McIntosh estimated.
Paying for two lifeguards to move the bulkhead, a job she estimated will take about 20 minutes, will add another $50 a month in costs, McIntosh projected.
“For some people on our team, this is getting to be too much money,” McIntosh warned.
This is really just hitting people too hard.”
What is especially frustrating to Metcalfe is what he sees as a lack of consistent swimming pool policies in the Lower Mainland.
“Every municipality has different rules,” Metcalfe commented.
Some municipalities are taking the same approach to fees that the Township has, while others follow the Abbotsford approach, Metcalfe outlined.
“You’re telling me Abbotsford wants to be unsafe? Vancouver wants to be unsafe?” Metcalfe asked.
Metcalfe said the Township has handed over decision-making to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), which is jointly operated by both municipalities under the Langley Emergency Program and, he feels, unwilling to consider options.
“It’s been absolutely brutal,” Metcalfe said.
Both Metcalfe and McIntosh noted the Township has received federal Safe Restart Agreement funds that they said could help cover lifeguard costs.
An email McIntosh provided the Langley Advance Times, from Rob Stare, deputy director of recreation programs and services in the Township Parks and Recreation department, said allowing other groups to share the Walnut Grove pool was against the “EOC direction [which] continues to be for no cross-over of groups with 50 maximum in the pool area at a time.”
“Entry to all of our buildings is still very restricted with limited access points, and the suggested multiple points of entry at [Walnut Grove pool] for multiple groups does not fit the operational model and would add additional staffing and cleaning costs that would make it prohibitive at this time.”
Stare said the Township intends to continue charging user groups for a single lifeguard “while TOL continues to carry the cost burden of the second guard.”
“As far as the Federal relief funds, the allocation of those monies will be up to council in how and where it is applied,” Stare stated.
Langley Advance Times has reached out to the Township for comment.