Racine County raises lifeguard pay after multiple drownings at area beaches

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RACINE COUNTY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- Three people drowned in Racine last month, prompting the Racine County board to raise the pay scale for lifeguards.

The county is not responsible for the Lake Michigan beaches where three children died, but they pushed the pay raises through with a sense of urgency anyway, and hope others who keep watch over our lakes and pools will do the same.

Racine County board supervisors rushed a pay raise through, taking lifeguards from $12 an hour to roughly $16 an hour.

"A sigh of relief. I mean after hearing drowning after drowning, it's like what can we do?" said Racine County Board Supervisor Kelly Kruse, 10th District.

Three children died -- two at North Beach and one at Zoo Beach. Both are manned by the city of Racine, but the county wants to do what they can to help.

"The city is looking at possibly trying to expand the hours and we're trying to help collaboratively with a solution to the problem," said Racine County Public Works Development Services Director Julie Anderson.

To be ready for that, the county needed to be more competitive and bring their wages in line with what others are paying.

"They're willing to make that drive to make that extra money," said Kruse.

The county used to staff lifeguards at a beach in Mount Pleasant, but hasn't been able to in years.

"A lot of public pools can't even open right now because of the shortage of lifeguards," said Anderson.

At Browns Lake in Burlington, it's been a good day for these friends.

"We did see some lifeguards earlier and like I said, probably would be a lot safer with them on the beach," said beach-goer Tristan Sharon.

"I mean that is a pretty big increase," he said, when asked what he thinks of the pay raise. "But like I said, they do have a big responsibility so it's kind of understandable for them to be paid a bit more."

Supervisor Kruse couldn't agree more and urges other communities to do the same.

"I hope that we're the leaders and I hope that they follow us and they rush to this throughout everywhere, and that they extend lifeguard hours and that they extend anything that we can do. Seeing that one child and then seeing another, I mean, our heart breaks," said Sharon.

Water patrol assistants will also be getting a pay increase.

There is an open recruitment for Racine County lifeguards. For more information, head to RacineCounty.com.

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