City Council Finds a Cool Answer to a Hot Problem

Times Staff Writer

Talk about saving face in city government.

The San Diego City Council coughed up $23,500 Monday to stock up on moisturizing lotion and lip balm, all to protect city employees from burned cheeks, noses, lips and other parts.

The expenditure--buried deep in the council’s “consent agenda” and most likely overlooked by the council members, who came back to work after a two-week break--allows the city’s purchasing department to buy as much as 35,000 15-ounce bottles of Eclipse 15 sunscreen and 3,000 tubes of lip balm during the next year.

Purchasing officials say they need the skin products to distribute to thousands of city workers who must toil outdoors in the elements, such as they are in America’s Finest City. The idea, they say, is to help trashmen, lifeguards, park groundskeepers and others avoid the threat of skin cancer, caused by long-term exposure to the sun.

The amount set aside by the City Council is more than the $21,000 annual salary for an entry-level police officer position. It would buy nearly 59 of those standard steel desks for city workers.

Monday’s vote was the first time the council approved a contract for the lotion and balm, said Irene Sutherland, a city purchasing agent. Before that, the city made spot purchases of the skin products, almost exclusively for lifeguards, who used up between $7,000 and $8,000 worth last year.


But Sutherland said she suggested the new contract--which required City Council approval--after she learned that a city employee newsletter would soon advertise the free sunscreen and balm for municipal workers who toiled outdoors.

“That means more city employees are aware of it, so let’s just up the quantities,” she said. “In the last year or so, I’ve been buying several small orders worth. So I decided to consolidate it and get a contract.”

The council Monday awarded the contract to Southwest Safety and Supply, and Sutherland emphasized that all of the $23,500 doesn’t have to be spent if the demand for free lotion and balm is lacking.