No lifeguards this summer? Future of New Buffalo lifeguard progr - WNEM TV 5

No lifeguards this summer? Future of New Buffalo lifeguard program in doubt

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CBS -

Even on a beautiful day, the Great Lakes can be dangerous.

While New Buffalo city leaders say swimmers need to be protected from those dangers, they didn’t set aside any money in the budget for this summer or next.

“I can’t employ enough qualified lifeguards. We are creating the illusion of providing a lifeguard service which I don’t think it’s fair to the community or to the beach users,” said David Richards, city manager of New Buffalo.

Dave Benjamin with the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project said he's seen lifeguards save lives in New Buffalo. He said the average beach-goer doesn't know enough about water safety.

“If there are no lifeguards and someone doesn’t know what drowning looks like it’s going to go unnoticed until they realize someone is missing,” Benjamin said.

Then, the rescue will be down to the police or fire department - which may not make it in time to save a victim.

“We need first responders there, as in lifeguards, to make the response so that when paramedics are arriving first aid is already being treated,” Benjamin said.

Richards said it's fairly common to have unguarded beaches.

“I would challenge you to tell me who is providing lifeguarding services on Lake Michigan, other than Michigan City and St. Joseph on one of their beaches,” Richards said.

Richards said Bridgman eliminated its lifeguard program decades ago. Benjamin feels the city has already made its decision to do the same.

“Tuesday afternoon an email went out about a special budget meeting to be at 10 a.m. So, it’s short notice. It’s at an inconvenient time, you know people have to take off work to be here,” he said.

Richards said the life guarding issue wasn't discussed by the council Thursday, other than hearing public comment.

So, when will the final decision be made?

“The end of May, add a public hearing,” Richards said.

Benjamin thinks May is too late.

“Are you going to hire a lifeguard crew and train a lifeguard crew in May?” he asked.

Richards said if the lifeguard program is cut, the city won't leave the beach completely unprotected. He said the council plans to add lifeguarding equipment and warning signs.

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