Newport This Week

City Says It Will Have Enough Lifeguards This Summer

Despite a lifeguard shortage up and down the East Coast last summer, Easton’s Beach will be adequately staffed this season, the city of Newport recently said.

According to David Vieira, recreation program supervisor in Newport, the city hired 30 lifeguards and will be removing an ad soliciting the position from its website. Vieira delivered the news at a June 7 Beach Commission meeting.

A pending 17 lifeguards will be full-time and 13 will be part-time, according to the city. Some who are slated to be full-time have yet to take on their complete hours because they are teachers, Vieira said, although most will assume their regular schedule after the last day of public school on June 23.

The city erected lifeguard stands and chairs on May 17 and the beach officially opened on Memorial Day weekend. Vieira reported strong attendance to start the season.

“Memorial Day weekend was windy, but mostly sunny and busy at the beach,” he said.

In May, the beach generated about $120,500 in total parking revenue, with about $46,700 coming from the Passport app and another

$73,850 coming from parking pay stations.

“We’re definitely seeing an increase in use of the app, which we do try to push at the gate,” Vieira said.

The numbers are about a 2 percent decrease over last year’s parking revenue in May, a negligible difference of about $2,500, he added.

In May, Save the Bay workers conducted dune repairs and plantings on the beach’s west end after the area was damaged by a storm in December that flooded beach facilities, as well as eroded portions of the Cliff Walk.

On the topic of beach revenue, Beach Commission member Mark Fitzgerald said he has been crunching some numbers and determined that the operation of the beach costs the city about $400,000 per year, as opposed to being a revenue generator.

“What it comes down to is the beach is not a profit center, which, unfortunately, most of the citizenry believes,” he said. “That needs to get out there, because people think we can build the new facilities off the profits of the parking lot, and we should be able to have the Taj Mahal. Wrong. Not only will we not get that, but that new building is going to cost more to maintain.”

Fitzgerald said his primary purpose in conducting the financial study, which he admits is just a rough estimate, is to educate the public. In October, DBVW Architects proposed a $35 million renovation of Easton’s Beach and its facilities to combat climate change and increase resiliency. The Beach Commission said the bottom line on beach operations should be widely known, considering the public could vote on a bond referendum to fund the renovation project in the near future.

“I do think the city [government] is aware,” said Beach Commission member Aly Oakley. “I don’t want to call the beach a money pit, but it’s certainly not a moneymaker. It’s nostalgic at this point. It’s something they’re not going to get rid of. It’s our public beach.”

Fitzgerald is seeking feedback from the city and the Beach Commission, and hopes to soon present a resolution of findings for City Council consideration.

In other news, Beach Commission member Roan Iribarren gave an update on the ownership of the Easton’s Beach seawall and whether the city or state is responsible for its repair. The Beach Commission is now awaiting confirmation of an existing agreement between the city and state that divides ownership and maintenance responsibilities between the beach side and the sidewalk side of the wall, with the city being responsible for the beach side and the state for the sidewalk side.

Finally, the Beach Commission considered how it will maintain its relationship with the city upon the retirement of city manager Joe Nicholson. Nicholson recently announced that he plans to depart the position in September.

“Who are we going to talk to?” asked member Demetri Damaskos. “In 20 years, this Beach Commission has presented more to the city and City Council than many other prior commissions. I don’t want to see it go by the wayside.”

In other matters:

  • The city’s public works department recently renovated a small section of the bathhouses at Easton’s Beach for $4,000. More renovation is planned for the bathhouses next year;
  • The city recently completed fixes to the bathroom door at King Beach;
  • The Beach Commission is soliciting ideas for areas on city property where the beach carousel could be stored until the demolition of the building currently housing it;
  • The DPVW conducted 3D imaging of beach facility interiors on June 2.

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