Seasonal labor shortage impacting communities across Southeast Wisconsin

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukeeans have mixed opinions on cancellations of summer festivities.

“It’s better to be cautious than to get, I guess, hurt,” Samantha Carmona said.

“I think putting the brakes on stuff like that is kind of tragic," Darren Spurlock said. "There’s a lot of people that especially come to the parks in the summertime, especially for their summer events. They love it.”

Milwaukee County announced Tuesday, May 25, they will be cancelling their annual lakefront fireworks show due to staffing shortages. They will only be opening half of their pools this summer because of a shortage of lifeguards. Milwaukee County Parks Executive Director Guy Smith said that is something he is working with both the Milwaukee County executive's office, and county supervisors, to solve.

“We're looking at, are there some financial incentives? Are there bonuses that we might be able to offer? We’re still in those preliminary stages," said Smith. 

Smith said the Milwaukee County Parks Department is about 50-percent staffed right now, and encourages anyone looking for work to consider applying on the Milwaukee County Parks website.

The lifeguard shortage is also causing problems in Pleasant Prairie. Swimming at Lake Andrea will be at the swimmers' own risk for the first time ever. The Pleasant Prairie RecPlex said they are struggling to fill lifeguard positions at their indoor facilities, to the point where they have both increased wages and will offer discount vouchers to families of teenagers who can lifeguard.

The Wilson Park Group in Milwaukee said they don’t have enough time to find staff and plan for their July 4 parade. They also don’t think it’s safe.

“There are a lot of older people in this neighborhood," Wilson Park Group President Roy Suarez del Real said. "And my kids included are not [vaccinated]. Twelve down. I think it would be kind of a risky team.”

Several surrounding counties are avoiding cancellations. Racine, Washington, and Waukesha counties said they are experiencing staff shortages, but they do not believe they will have the same impact that is being felt in communities like Pleasant Prairie and Milwaukee.

Washington County Executive Josh Schoemann said all of the major fireworks celebrations in the county will go on.

“Fourth of July is one of our favorite events as the freest county in America," Schoemann said. "We’re excited to make sure that we can do whatever possible to make those happen.”

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