Huntington Beach could reduce lifeguard hours if the City Council approves several proposed budget cuts for next year.
The council was presented with a proposed 2010-11 budget at a study session Monday with about $3 million in cuts, including reduced story time at the library, axing seven crossing guard locations, the layoff of six employees and closing the Police Department's Oak View substation.
The city has made about $20 million in cuts over the last 24 months and implemented a retirement incentive program that is projected to save the city about $11 million over the next six years.
Staff proposed reducing the amount of overtime funding for the Marine Safety Division, which would reduce the hours of lifeguards from 18 to 10 hours a day, according to the staff report.
The proposed cut would take effect during non-peak times starting at the beginning of the fiscal year, Oct. 1, said Jim Engle, the community services director.
The cut would reduce the hours of permanent lifeguards, most likely leaving the beach unattended at night, Engle said. Lifeguards currently monitor the beach until midnight.
Even with the cuts, the city would still be able to call in part-time lifeguards to work longer hours when there is good weather and a large number of beachgoers, Engle said.
Councilman Devin Dwyer raised concerns about the reduction in lifeguard hours increasing fatalities or injuries at the beach, and the fire and police departments having to "backfill" the loss of marine safety officials.
"I just see the beaches as our jewel," Dwyer said. "I don't want to muck that up."
Engle said police and fire already handle beach calls when lifeguards aren't present, and while the situation isn't ideal, it has happened before.
The city imposed similar cuts in 2002-03 until it could afford to reinstate the normal lifeguard hours, he said.
The proposed budget is scheduled to come back before the council at a study session Aug. 16. To see the proposed budget, go to http://www.huntingtonbeachca.gov/government/budget_information/.
In other news:
•The council also approved the sponsorship of two lifeguard towers that needed replacement, saving the city $90,000.
Hurley agreed to purchase and install two lifeguard towers adjacent to the pier in exchange for advertising space on the back of them for five years. The surf apparel company has already paid the $90,000 in advance, according to the staff report.
Marine Safety Chief Kyle Lindo made a presentation to the council at a study session last month asking for the funds to replace 16 of the city's 24 towers.
The towers have exceeded their 15-year lifespan and are degrading, but the replacement costs are well beyond the department's regular budget, Lindo said at the meeting last month.
It costs about $45,000 per tower to replace, according to staff reports.
•Councilman Gil Coerper withdrew his proposal to ban downtown patrons from lighting up in or near outdoor eating areas.
The proposed ordinance would have banned smoking on outdoor patios and within 20 feet of them in the downtown are between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m., according to the staff report.
Coerper said he received e-mails from residents complaining about patrons smoking near their children. Coerper said he will put the proposal on hold for the time being.
"I will withdraw my item at the present time and bring it back at a later date if there is no compliance," he said.