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More staffing needed as long-awaited Lincoln Park Aquatic Center opens in Palmetto

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MANATEE COUNTY (WFLA) – Just in time for the holiday weekend, Manatee County is opening up the long-awaited Lincoln Aquatic Center in Palmetto. Members of the community have been pushing for the facility for decades.

Manatee County Commissioner Reggie Bellamy, who grew up in the district he represents, told 8 On Your Side it’s humbling to see the project come to fruition.

“I am excited for our youth. I am excited for the kids to have an opportunity to have an experience that I did not have when I was growing up here north of the river,” said Commissioner Bellamy.

The aquatic center is the county’s first public pool north of the Manatee River.

“The reality is, change is here. I strive on building relationships with my colleagues. They’ve embraced the opportunity to make changes in north river, whether it is the roads, sidewalks or here with the pool,” said Bellamy.

The county is opening the pool at half capacity for the holiday weekend for a soft opening. After this weekend, open swim sessions will take place daily from noon to 4 p.m. with the exception of Friday, June 3 when the pool will be closed due to the extra staffing needed during the opening weekend.

Admission to the facility was set to be $2 per person, per session. However, earlier this week, commissioners voted to waive admission fees for the aquatic center throughout the summer.

The facility aims to host swim lessons in the future. However, at the moment, they’re struggling to find staffing to get them through the summer.

“We are still looking for lifeguards and swim instructors. We are able to open this weekend and through the summer, but we hope to expand our hours at all facilities. In order to do that, we need to get our full staffing levels. We are about 50% right now, but we are hiring at $18.40 an hour. We train for free and certify you, you’ve just got to reach out to our aquatics department and we can train and hire you,” said Manatee County recreation division manager Matthew Porter.

Lifeguard shortages are hitting communities across the nation. The American Lifeguard Association says about one-third of public parks and pools could remain closed this summer due to the shortage of lifeguards.

Anyone interested in becoming a lifeguard in Manatee County can find more information online.

“The goal is to be fully staffed. We are in need for lifeguards. We would like them to come and go through the process so we can hire them and then we can really get into serving our youth as well as potentially some adult programs,” said Commissioner Bellamy.

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