New Ipswich pool director says town underpays lifeguards

  • The New Ipswich Board of Selectmen was addressed by lifeguards of the town pool at a meeting on Tuesday, May 23. (Brandon Latham / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) — Staff photo by Brandon Latham

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 5/25/2017 7:22:10 AM

Lifeguards for the New Ipswich town pool appeared with the pool director in front of the board of selectmen to ask for increased wages as the pool prepares to open for the 2017 season.

Mindy Buxton, head of the town pool, asked for permission to pay her lifeguards more in order to be more competitive with surrounding towns that offer more, which the selectmen said she could not due to the restrictions of a voter-approved warrant article. The starting rate for all beginning guards in New Ipswich is $8 per hour.

“Our lifeguards are drastically underpaid, even as a simple lifeguard starting out they are underpaid,” she said.

Selectboard chair David Lage said that the town is “handcuffed” by a 2015 town meeting warrant article outlining pool pay. He also said that state statute prevents them from paying salaries for existing positions out of the general fund, which Buxton recommended as a way of not increasing the tax burden.

“If you want to change it next budget season, you can,” he said. “But the budget season we’re in, you have a budget set aside for lifeguards, that’s what you have.”

Buxton, also the recreation director, resigned from the recreation department effective June 1, but will remain pool director through the summer. Buxton cited politics and disagreements between herself and officials on the select board and budget committee as reasons for her resignation.

Lage said he does think the lifeguards deserve to be fairly compensated, and Selectman Jay Hopkins said he understands that New Ipswich pays on the low end.

Officials agreed that aside from firefighters and police officers, lifeguard is one of the most important jobs in town.

First-year guards at the New Ipswich town pool make $8 per hour with possible increases based on tenure. The position of head guard has been removed and there are no bonuses for increased levels of certification.

In Peterborough, town lifeguards make $11.49 per hour in the first year with basic certification. In Greenville, a new senior guard earned $11.17 per hour and a new junior guard in $9.50 in 2016, and returning lifeguards are subject to the same three percent raise as all town employees.

Buxton proposed paying starting lifeguards $10 per hour with basic lifeguard certification. For lifeguards with water safety instruction certification, she would like to pay

If any more lifeguards leave for other towns – as four already have, the director said – she is afraid New Ipswich will have to cut pool hours, or consider closing the pool. The selectmen agreed to look into whether residents could donate to fund lifeguards.

“I’m trying to save the pool this year,” she told the selectmen. “We’re going to lose more guards.”

The board of selectmen is about to enter its summer schedule, meeting only every other week. The next regular meeting is Tuesday, June 6, at the town office.


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