SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — After two years of challenges, pools across the state are reporting adequate staffing for this season.

“We are fully staffed,” Philip city administrator Brittany Smith said. “This year is better than last year.”

Compared to 2022, “we have more interest from the community,” Smith said. Lifeguards decided to return, others became interested and volunteers also stepped up, she said.

The city will have 12-full time staff members and some part-time staff along with several volunteers.

Volunteers need to be certified as a lifeguard, Smith said.

Lifeguards in Miller got a $3 per hour raise this year to make $13.50 an hour as a base rate, said the city’s deputy finance officer Cindy Deuter.

“We are fully staffed now,” Deuter said.

The city has one pool manager and 12 lifeguards, Deuter said.

Pay increases in Sioux Falls have also helped with filling the staff for the city’s five outdoor pools, one wading pool and the MIDCO indoor aquatic center, said Jean Pearson, the city’s recreation program director in aquatics.

“It certainly helped to raise the pay,” Pearson said.

The starting pay this season is about $16.50 per hour.

“Dell Rapids can’t keep pace with the pay at the Sioux Falls pools but it must be competitive,” said Dell Rapids city administrator Justin Weiland.

“We try to be somewhat competitive with Sioux Falls but we are not at the level they are at,” Weiland said.

The city also communicates with Madison, Flandreau and Baltic, for example, to make sure they have similar pay so that lifeguards aren’t leaving one of those cities for a nearby town, Weiland said.

The city has filled the openings to cover the pool for the season, Weiland said. Dell Rapids has 16 lifeguards and 10 front-end concessions workers.

Dell Rapids lifeguards may still choose to work in Sioux Falls but then, they’d have to pay for gas to get there, Weiland said.

Pearson said although the city’s lifeguard training classes has students from nearby communities, it doesn’t want to take those trained guards from those towns.

A Sioux Falls pool.

She hopes that by offering the training in Sioux Falls, it is helping to fill lifeguard spots in neighboring towns.

“If we’ve got 10 kids in a class and five are not mine, that’s a good thing,” Pearson said.

Eleven of the 17 participants in an upcoming May class are not Sioux Falls pool employees, Pearson said.

Sioux Falls does have four lifeguards from Lennox who work at MIDCO from September to May but return to the Lennox outdoor pool for the summer. That type of relationship benefits both communities, Pearson said.

Staffing an outdoor pool often means cities are working with youth who may be in summer activities and have planned family vacations.

Pearson said Sioux Falls has 125 youth to fill 82 full-time positions. That means some lifeguards work more hours than others but it also allows youth to do other things throughout the summer, she said.

Dell Rapids has 16 lifeguards and 10 front-end concessions workers. “Kids have basketball camps, family vacations…we’ve figured out how many we need at a time…,” Weiland said.

The pool in Philip.

Smith and Deuter said pools are a hub of activity during the summer months.

“It’s so busy,” Deuter said of the Miller pool.

The Philip pool’s schedule is busy with open swimming and designated teen and family swim nights.

“We also offer water aerobics. We have three weeks of swimming lessons,” Smith said.

Deuter said the pool is not a money maker but the council and local residents have determined the pool is an important feature. The existing pool needs replacing and while fund-raising efforts have slowed down in the past year, there is still city support and community support to build a new pool, Deuter said.

A local economic development organization plans to give the pool campaign attention, she said.

Philip revamped it’s pool in 2010, Smith said.

Sioux Falls is also considering possible options for new pools or upgrades.

Most outdoor pools in the state will open in June.