Commissioners reconsidering closing of lifeguard station

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The irate response by the Indian River Shores Town Council over the expected loss of the lifeguard station at Tracking Station Beach has at least two County Commissioners re-thinking their positions on the matter.

Commissioners Bob Solari and Joe Flescher said Wednesday that the Sept. 23 council meeting in which the Council vociferously objected to the closing of the lifeguard station has prompted them to consider ways to come up with the money to keep the station open. “They made some very good arguments and I think it is reasonable that they stressed the public safety aspect of it,” Solari said.

Flescher said he is bringing the matter up at the next County Commission meeting on Oct. 6 and has asked Budget Director Jason Brown to come up with ways to find the funding for either a part-time lifeguard at $42,000 or full-time at $100,000.

Solari said at the Indian River Shores meeting that council’s silence during the budget workshop and hearings led him and other commissioners to believe they weren’t concerned if the station stayed open or not. The lifeguard line item first came up in July, and was discussed again at two public hearings in September.

“Public safety and the lifeguards are very important, so is mental health and so are children’s services where we also made cuts,” Solari said at the meeting. “I didn’t hear anything from Indian River Shores. I didn’t think of this as an Indian River Shores issue.”

He said after talking with town officials after the meeting he thought they presented a strong public safety argument that he would consider.

Indian River Shores, however, is not part of Solari’s district, so he did not bear the brunt of the council’s ire. That fell on Flescher,  whose district includes Indian River Shores.

“We put $7.8 million (in taxes) into the county’s general fund every year, but what do we get?” asked Councilman Mike Oschner. “You need to sharpen your pencils.”

“To me this is a tourism issue and a life safety issue,” said Flescher, pointing out his concern that tourists would not flock to an unguarded beach.

For their part, the Town Council  made it very clear to Flescher that they want the beach guarded, preferably at full staffing – two full time and one part time lifeguard would cost $110,000 – but at minimum with part-time staffing for $42,000.

“I’ve heard you tell me that you want me to find $100,000?” Flescher said, indicating he would try to do just that.

Kenyon suggested that in a $300 million county budget, Flescher and his colleagues should be able to find at least $42,000.

“We send you $7.8 million ad valorem taxes,” Kenyon said. “The problem is that we’re in the last week of the current  situation and we need to get some coverage. We love your agreement, but what are you going to do about it?”

Based on the outcome of the Commission meeting, Tracking Station Beach could go unstaffed starting next week.

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