Twisp’s appeals to fill ‘desperate need’ at pool pay off for town

By Ann McCreary

After several weeks of advertising for lifeguards, it appears that the Town of Twisp has finally enticed enough applicants to ensure the Wagner Memorial Pool will be able to open this summer.

Town officials were getting worried as weeks went by and only a couple of local teens had applied for the summer lifeguard jobs. The town needs at least six lifeguards to cover shifts at the pool; without enough guards the pool could not open.

As of Tuesday (May 15), there were about a dozen applicants for the guard positions, said Lori Rodio, a Twisp public works employee who has managed the pool for several years.

Town officials alerted leaders of the Methow Valley Killer Whales, the local youth swim team, that the pool might not open because of the shortage of guards.

“We sent out an email to the team saying the town is in desperate need of lifeguards,” said Andy Floyd, president of the swim team board. The email warned that “without lifeguards, the pool won’t open and that means no swim team either.”

Friends of the Pool, a nonprofit organization that supports the pool, also sponsored a newspaper ad last week and posted information on Facebook encouraging local youths to apply. The efforts appear to have produced results. Several of the applicants are swim team members, Rodio said.

The town was also seeking a manager for the pool, and found that position difficult to fill as well, so a part-time manager has been hired and will work with Rodio to manage the pool.

Recruiting local teens to become lifeguards has been difficult for several years, but this year has been the most problematic, said Twisp Mayor Soo Ing-Moody. It may be because fewer teens are taking summer jobs, or they may not want to make a commitment to work the entire summer, she said.

The town will send the newly hired guards to Okanogan to be trained because the pool won’t be ready to train them here. The pool is about one-third full of water and needs to be drained, cleaned, refilled and heated before it is ready to use, said Andrew Denham, Twisp public works director.

However, until the high water recedes, the pool can’t be pumped out because water that collects in the water table under the pool structure has the potential to “push the pool right out of the ground,” essentially floating the pool on top of the water that collects beneath it, Denham said. The pool is kept partially filled during winter with water that “acts as ballast,” and needs to remain in the pool until high water abates, he said.

The town is working with TranGO to arrange transportation by van for the guards, many of whom are too young to drive, to train in Okanogan, Rodio said. The pool will open June 11 for swim team “boot camp,” and will open to the public on June 16, she said.

This year the pool will be closed on Sundays, to give guards a day off. Rodio said that might help alleviate some of the “burnout” that guards experience toward the end of summer. The facility will be available to rent for private events, if guards are available to staff them.