Frequently Asked Questions Related to the Opening of Only Flora Pool
Why not do an alternating schedule again where both pools were available at different times?
The reason we cannot safely open both pools is due to understaffing. The reason we are not alternating pools is because only opening Flora Pool allows us to serve the greatest number of residents. It is the largest of the two pools with a 33% larger body of water and significantly larger lawn space. Due to its size, we have more capacity for open swim and swim lessons at Flora than we do at Sutton. Flora is also the most centrally located pool making it the more accessible option of the two pools for the greatest number of people. Ultimately, an alternating schedule with time periods where only Sutton Pool is open reduces the number of residents we can serve and is a less accessible option.
You made it work last year, why deprive one area of town while serving another?
Staff tried to alter the schedule by offering both pools open on limited schedule last year with similar staffing shortages. The result of those efforts was burn-out of the lifeguard staff.
There was more limited open swim and lesson opportunities last year.
Flora is the largest of the 2 pools (33% larger body of water and significantly larger desk/lawn space) which allows us to accommodate more citizens on a daily basis.
Sutton Pool maximum capacity is 600 swimmers in the main pool and 112 in the play area which is far less than Flora pool which is 850 swimmers in the main pool and 112 in the play pool. The Flora Pool facility itself can accommodate in total over 1,300 people as not all people are in the pool areas at the same time. Sutton has much more limited deck space and green space.
A significant goal is to build back up the workforce so that we can operate both pools. We need to retain staff on an annual basis. Due to burn-out from last season, we are having to start with all new staff as less than 10% have returned from last year. When retention is more normal (around 50%) we only need to recruit and fully train 50% instead of over 90% for this season.
Retention comes from having a safe, valued, and enjoyable work experience. This is especially important with lifeguards where constant alertness and attention to detail is crucial for both the employee and the citizen’s safety.
Will there be a set occupancy? Overcrowding is a concern.
The maximum capacity (in the water) of Flora pool is 850 swimmers in the main pool and 112 in the play pool. The facility itself can accommodate in total over 1,300 people as not all people are in the pool areas at the same time.
The general open swim schedule is no different than last year in terms of availability. Even with the alternating schedule, there was still only 1 pool open for “open swim” each day. Having the largest pool open allows opportunity for more swimmers. For much of the 2021 season, pool capacity was reduced due to COVID restrictions at the beginning of the season. There were minimal issues last season with overcrowding.
You don’t pay enough. Dubuque really needs to pay people more to incentivize more high school and college students to work for Leisure Services.
We understand that some social media shared that our wages are $8 and $9 an hour. The actual pay for lifeguards was $12.50. As of April 29, 2022 the City has announced a wage increase to $15 for new lifeguards and $17 for returning lifeguards.
What were the outreach efforts?
Historically, jobs for our summer positions are posted in January and February. Staff began planning for the recruitment of staff for the 2022 pool season starting in September of 2021. This started with conversations between staff and the Dubuque Community School District.
In December, staff began developing and planning for free certifications classes to begin in January that were posted on social media and in our brochure.
In December the job postings for lifeguards became available on the City website and other local job sites. Staff also received approval to lower the minimum hiring age to 15 years old.
Staff reached out to the Telegraph Herald in December to run an article on the new hiring process, free certifications and age changes.
From December through mid-March there was a social media campaign launched to promote lifeguarding jobs and trainings that consisted of 14 posts which on average were seen by over 3,000 people per post.
In December, staff sent a letter out to 85 community contacts including coaches, administrators, teachers and secretaries of the Dubuque Community School District and Holy Family. Also included were contacts from all 3 of the local universities as well as community partner organizations.
These same contacts were again notified of our staffing needs in February.
Flyers and other marketing materials were sent directly to the School District.
An announcement was included in the City News newsletter which is mailed with utility bills to all City utility customers (21,000 copies).
Is there a vaccine requirement for City staff?
The current City policy requires any new prospective employee be fully vaccinated or apply for and be approved for a medical or religious exemption prior to employment.
Staff will not comment on vaccination status of any employees as that is a personnel matter. Any inquiries regarding the vaccine policy should be directed to the City Manager’s Office or the Human Resources Department.
Is there enough time to hire, certify, and train additional lifeguards?
The certification classes are now part of the onboarding process. Since there are a group of prospective lifeguards currently in the process for Flora pool, applicants to fill the remaining needs to fully staff Flora will be the priority. If there are enough new applicants to safely and effectively staff Sutton pool, a separate certification would be developed to bring those staff on board.
How many staff are required to operate the pools?
Based on Iowa Code and the size of Flora Pool, it requires a minimum of 20 lifeguards per shift at maximum capacity. To ensure safe coverage, we schedule 23 per shift. There are multiple shifts in a day.
This number of 23 is not the actual needed number of staff for the pool as this the pool is a 7-days-per-week operation. Due to illness and other unforeseen needs to miss work, staff’s general availability (example: staff member can only work Mondays and Thursdays) and late season early departures before pool season is complete for school/jobs, there will need to be between 30-35 lifeguards on the schedule for Flora Pool.
Sutton Pool is smaller, so this would require an additional 25-30 guards in order to open that pool fully.
As of April 28, 2022, there are 24 applicants in the lifeguard onboarding process.
Staff will continue to recruit to increase the number of applicants.
The entire on-boarding process, from the time an application is received to the time the individual is a City employee and able to begin their training, takes a minimum of 2 weeks.
As staff continue through the process, confirmed employees will then be integrated into the training with the current staff for Flora Pool.
Staff will continue this hiring/onboarding/ training process:
Until Flora Pool is fully staffed
The next phase will be until there are enough additional staff to safely open and operate Sutton Pool.
Staff is one part of the opening process. It also takes 3 to 4 weeks to physically open a pool.
The process includes:
Cleaning the entire facility
Preparing the infrastructure for operations
Ordering the needed supplies/chemicals
Filling the pool over several days
Circulating the water and repairing any necessary functions not working properly
Balancing the pool with chemicals
Training the new staff with the different elements of the facility
To begin this process for Sutton Pool, there will have to be enough additional staff (25 to 30) confirmed and in training for operations.
Will the City be providing any transportation for the Sutton area residents?
City staff have been working to investigate a free direct shuttle service from the general north end community to Flora pool. If this service is confirmed, a schedule will be provided to staff and posted on social media, Telegraph Herald and on the City website.
Have other creative solutions like grants or fundraisers been explored?
The mentioned fundraiser was to raise money to fund an unbudgeted pool operation. The choice to only open one pool in Dubuque was not a budget/funding issue. This was a staffing issue.
The State of Iowa Code, which regulates operations of swimming pools, outlines many of the specific requirements for pools. We have tried to address throughout these FAQs other ideas that have been brought up and the respective answer to that creative solution. An example is the next question.
Why can’t volunteers be used to help?
Safety is our number one priority. It is our responsibility to the citizens to always have the proper staffing in place.
State Code requires all lifeguard staff to be fully trained and certified for public pools.
No public pool may open nor operate without the proper number of certified personnel (lifeguards).
Why does the North-end seem forgotten?
The decision to open Flora was not about serving one section of town over another. Since only one pool can be open based on our current resources, our decision was to choose the pool that could service the greatest number of citizens due to its size. This decision related to open swim, swim lessons and other programs such as water walking. This accessibility is a combination of facility size and proximity to all residents as Flora is centrally located in the Dubuque community.
This was a difficult decision to make as the City and the Leisure Services Department focuses on equity in decision making. Many factors were weighed in making this decision. We know and understand that it has a negative effect on some of our residents. We will continue our work in recruitment as well as addressing the impacts of this decision.