Newport Beach residents say they are skeptical of a city proposal to outsource lifeguard services for a 1.2-mile stretch of coastline popular with tourists.
The city is reviewing proposals from groups interested in patrolling Corona del Mar State Beach, which is currently watched over by city lifeguards who are considered part of the Fire Department.
No one is expected to be laid off from Newport Beach's full-time lifeguard staff of about 13. Instead, that number could shrink from attrition as the city outsources positions instead of hiring replacements for retirees, the Daily Pilot reported.
At a meeting hosted by the Corona del Mar Residents Assn. on Thursday, the majority of attendees who questioned Newport City Manager Dave Kiff objected to the plan.
"I have a serious concern with this overall," said Andy Becks, a Corona del Mar resident and former lifeguard in the city. "When you're part of the city you care more about what goes on in the city verses when you're outsourced to another company."
He noted that Corona del Mar State Beach is one of the city's busiest in the summer, attracting 1.6-million visitors each year, according to Newport's request for proposals.
"Do you really want your front-line employee — possibly the only experience these guests have — to be an outsourced contractor that may not care about their experience as much as somebody that does work for the city would?" Becks asked.
But Kiff reminded the audience that Newport needs to find a way to dig out from its pension debt, noting the city already pays about $25 million a year toward pensions, a number expected to increase as retirees live longer.
"That's what keeps city managers up at night," he said.
Kiff said the City Council could make a decision on outsourcing as soon as February, but he doesn't know if any of the five submitted proposals even meet the city's requirements or offer any savings.
"None of us have seen the math," Kiff said.
In the meantime, he and his staff will have to sell the idea to skeptical residents.
"We're trying to get our hands around it and understand why this would possibly make sense," said Karen Tringali, president of the Corona del Mar Residents Assn. "And we'll be as anxious as everybody else to see if there are real savings involved in this process."