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CdM residents: Do not outsource lifeguards

Newport officials consider contracting the services to combat looming pension costs.

January 16, 2014|By Jeremiah Dobruck

Outsourcing lifeguards at Corona del Mar State Beach would be "salt in the wounds" of a neighborhood that's still smarting from changes in trash-collection services, according to the head of the Corona del Mar Residents Assn.

"We're trying to get our hands around it and understand why this would possibly make sense," association President Karen Tringali said during the group's monthly meeting Thursday morning. "And we'll be as anxious as everybody else to see if there are real savings involved in this process."

She was reacting to the city of Newport Beach exploring the possibility of contracting out lifeguard services at CdM's 1.2-mile stretch of beach.

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The area is currently patrolled by city-employed lifeguards who are considered part of the Fire Department.

The city must cut costs anywhere possible to combat looming pension obligations that could wipe away budget surpluses in about the next five years, City Manager Dave Kiff said at the meeting. Kiff and Fire Chief Scott Poster updated board members on the plan.

City staff is reviewing the five proposals submitted before the Tuesday deadline.

City spokeswoman Tara Finnigan said Newport Beach does not release details of proposals this early in the process.

Kiff said the City Council could make a decision on outsourcing as soon as February, but right now, he doesn't know if any of the submitted proposals even meet the city's requirements or offer any savings.

"None of us have seen the math," Kiff said.

The majority of residents who questioned Kiff Thursday objected to the idea altogether.

"I have a serious concern with this overall," said Andy Becks, a CdM resident and former lifeguard in the city. "When you're part of the city you care more about what goes on in the city verses when you're outsourced to another company."

He noted that CdM is one of the city's busiest beaches in the summer, attracting 1.6 million visitors each year, according to Newport's request for proposals.

"Do you really want your front-line employee — possibly the only experience these guests have — to be an outsourced contractor that may not care about their experience as much as somebody that does work for the city would?" Becks asked.

Other CdM residents returned to an earlier fight when many residents bitterly opposed outsourcing trash services.

The council decided in the fall to hire Stanton-based CR&R Waste Services for trash pickup instead of using municipal employees.

"That is still an open wound for a lot of us," said Bruce Beardsley, a member of the association's board of directors.

Kiff reminded the audience that Newport needs to find a way to dig out from its pension debt, noting the city already pays about $25 million a year toward pensions, a number expected to increase as retirees live longer.

"That's what keeps city managers up at night," he said.

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