Lifeguards at Edmonton City Hall water fountain generate mixed reaction

There are new layers of protection in front of Edmonton city hall. Lifeguards are now on duty to protect people from shallow water.

While their presence isn’t permanent, they are getting mixed reaction from the public.

“I was a little surprised at first because I was like, ‘Oh interesting, lifeguards,’ because obviously it’s a small little fountain,” said Isaac Varty, who came to visit the fountain Wednesday.

The fountain’s pool has a maximum depth of 15 centimeters.

Some people who came to cool off said having lifeguards there seems like a bit much.

Read more: Get a glimpse of new pool at Edmonton City Hall

“I don’t think too many people are going to need lifeguards here,” fountain visitor Rheanna Tkachuck said.

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“I don’t think I need it but maybe it’s good for the kids,” Sophie Scott said.

“Yes, I thought it was unexpected. And I guess it’s good if it helps people be safe and feel comfortable to have their kids be here,” Sierra Wiebe said.

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Normally there wouldn’t be lifeguards at the city hall fountain. During the summer, the city hires “amenity attendants” to make sure people are safe at the fountain.

But the city said, staffing shortages have meant they can’t find enough attendants so they’re using lifeguards.

Parent Yodit Kidane stopped by with her one-and-a-half-year-old son. She said having anyone monitor the pool, especially lifeguards, is a great thing.

“Today was the first time I saw them, so I hope they stick around. I think it would be something great for Edmontonians,” Kidane said.

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It is more expensive. A lifeguard can make almost twice as much as an amenity attendant. While most adults said they don’t need extra protection, for kids, it’s a different story.

“It’s a bit silly for people over the height of four feet, but for infants and small children I can understand why they have lifeguards here,” visitor Tayden Vuong said.

Read more: Makeover of fountain outside Edmonton City Hall to exceed initial $13M budget

The city said accidental drownings can happen quickly, even in shallow water. And given the pool is popular with young families, extra supervision made sense, even if Alberta Health doesn’t require it.

“I think it’s a great idea. You’ve got kids always wanting to play around and old folks, young folks… So why not have some extra help?” Kidane said.

The city said it is actively working to fill the amenity attendant positions to replace the lifeguards.

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