Lifeguards rescued from outsourcing

Corona del Mar State Beach will remain in the hands of Newport Beach lifeguards.

The city had been exploring options to outsource lifesaving services at the 1.2-mile stretch of coastline but announced Thursday that it would drop the idea.

The attempt had drawn ire from local unions and some residents still smarting from other changes to city services, but the decision came down to dollars and cents, according to city officials.

Out of five organizations that submitted proposals, only two met the basic requirements, according to city staff members.

The two qualified bids came from OC Lifeguards, a private company that oversees about half a dozen beaches in Orange County, and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, but their services would have cost more than what the city currently spends, according to a news release.

"We base every outsourcing consideration on the facts," Mayor Rush Hill said in the release. "We look at our own service level and costs, we ask others to tell us how they would provide the service and at what cost, and we carefully analyze the responses. When our in-house staff can provide the best service most cost-effectively, we keep what we've got."

City Manager Dave Kiff declined to reveal the state and OC Lifeguards' quoted prices. The city spends about $4 million a year on lifeguards at all of its beaches.

Newport Beach's two lifeguard unions pushed hard against the outsourcing idea. The Assn. of Newport Beach Ocean Lifeguards, which represents seasonal guards, started a campaign that included going door to door, handing out hundreds of signs and starting an online petition that garnered more than 1,000 signatures.

"I think it's fantastic that the city came to this decision," said Capt. Boyd Mickley, who leads the Lifeguard Management Assn., the union representing Newport Beach's full-time guards. "For me, emotionally through this whole thing, it's been a roller coaster."

According to Mickley, this announcement came just in time to transition smoothly to the lifeguards' busy season. In March, Newport typically holds tryouts for summer beach positions.

"It's finally great to have a close and start planning for the summer," he said.

Newport officials asked for outsourcing proposals late last year in an attempt to cut operational costs.

The move could have also let the city reduce the number of full-time lifeguards through attrition. Some of its 13 full-timers are expected to retire soon.

City officials have been searching for ways to save money as they face a looming pension debt that already costs about $25 million annually and is expected to balloon.

Street cleaning, tree trimming and — most recently in the fall — trash collection have all been outsourced.

"As a result, the city has saved millions of dollars, and city personnel numbers have been reduced by about 100 full-time positions since 2009," Newport's news release stated. "In several cases, services were not outsourced after proposals were analyzed — these include jail operations and now lifeguarding at Corona del Mar."

Copyright © 2019, Daily Pilot
EDITION: California | U.S. & World