With larger beaches may come the need for an increased lifeguarding staff in Lavallette next season.
Borough officials said at a council meeting Monday night that they recently received a letter from Ocean County telling them that there needs to be a lifeguard stand every 300 feet. The letter led to a lengthy discussion on the role of the borough’s lifeguard staff and a question as to whether the county even has the power to issue such an edict to a municipal government.
“They’ve decided that next year, every 300 feet of beach requires a lifeguard, and that applies to us,” said Mayor Walter LaCicero.
The borough’s groins and jetties on the beachfront are located about 300 feet apart, but they are expected to be covered with sand once the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completes its beach replenishment project in town. The 300-foot distance would mean the borough would have to add about four additional lifeguard stands, according to Councilman Michael Stogdill, but officials said they worried more about their autonomy in running the town’s beaches rather than potential financial implications.
“Right now we currently staff our lifeguards stands with three [guards], so perhaps because they will be closer together we could go to two and mitigate some of the financial impact,” said LaCicero.
The realignment of guards could spark some safety concerns, according to officials.
“Currently, the lifeguard captain picks where those stands are going to go because he knows where it’s safe, and he avoids setting up stands where it isn’t safe,” said Councilman James Borowski. “If the stands are set up arbitrarily every 300 feet, you may have people swimming in areas where they shouldn’t be.”
There are also concerns about locating lifeguard stands near areas where the groins are now located, since after several years, the rocks have been known to re-emerge in some other communities.
“The lifeguard captain had a discussion last summer with the county and that came up,” said Stogdill. “It proves there is a safety issue.”
LaCicero asked Phillip George, the borough attorney, to take a further look into the legality of county’s order.
“There are a number of issues here between the county, state and local [government],” said George.
ALSO: Borough officials said the Army Corps has said replenishment will begin in October in Lavallette, however there could be delays. Most recently, the selection of the wrong size pipe in Ortley Beach delayed the project, as well as some recent stormy weather.