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Lifeguards rally against outsourcing idea

Door-to-door effort includes handing out signs opposing Newport's proposal for cost cutting at Corona del Mar State Beach.

February 06, 2014|By Jeremiah Dobruck
  • One of several posted signs that say "Keep Newport lifeguards in CdM" have gone up in Newport Beach. The signs are in protest of the potential outsourcing that may be coming up for the city.
One of several posted signs that say "Keep Newport… (Don Leach, Daily…)

Part-time lifeguards in Newport Beach are canvassing neighborhoods, handing out signs and promoting a petition as they push back against a city proposal that could outsource some of their jobs as a cost-saving measure.

The union representing part-timers, the Assn. of Newport Beach Ocean Lifeguards (ANBOL), has organized the drive in the last week, posting the petition online Monday.

The petition at Change.org, which had garnered about 600 signatures as of Thursday afternoon, asks the City Council to oppose the outsourcing lifeguard services at Corona del Mar State Beach.

The lifeguards' campaign is in response to the city's request for bids from private companies and government agencies interested in providing lifeguards at CdM's 1.2 miles of coastline, which hosts about 1.6 million visitors a year.

"This is real grass-roots movement," said Chris Graham, the head of ANBOL.

Part-time lifeguards are part of a team of about 50 people going door-to-door in Newport Beach neighborhoods, asking for support and handing out yard signs that read, "Keep Newport lifeguards in CdM," Graham said.

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He estimated that the union and its predominantly high-school- and college-age members have passed out about 200 signs with more to come.

"These kids are putting their own money into this," Graham added.

Newport Beach hires between 150 and 200 part-time lifeguards to staff its beaches each summer. If Corona del Mar's guards are outsourced, that would mean about 10% fewer hires every year.

"Our goal is to educate the community," Graham said. "Because every door we knocked on nobody even knew about this."

One key portion of that, Graham said, is explaining that Newport's part-time lifeguards typically do not receive pensions and earn a starting pay of about $17 an hour.

City officials say outsourcing would bring some operational savings and let Newport eliminate some of its 13 full-time positions, which include pension obligations, through attrition. No layoffs are planned.

Concrete numbers on any savings are still unknown. The city is reviewing the five proposals it received last month and hasn't released details.

City Manager Dave Kiff has emphasized that cost-saving options need to be considered to combat Newport's growing debt to retirees.

The city already pays $25 million a year toward pensions, Kiff told a group of residents last month, and that bill is expected to increase.

Citing pension costs, City Council members voted in the fall to outsource trash-collection services.

City officials did not respond Thursday to questions about the outsourcing.

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