Hanover Beach Remains Closed Due To Lack Of Lifeguards

Hanover Town Beach’s lifeguard chair remains empty this summer. Until enough lifeguards are hired, the town beach remains closed. Photo by Mary Heyl

HANOVER — Visitors to Hanover Town Beach have taken notice of the lifeguard chair, which has been vacant all summer, as well as fewer Sheriff’s cars, compared to previous summers, to patrol busy beach areas.

According to town councilman Bernie Feldmann, Jr., “Since my five years on the board, I don’t know of any year when we’ve had to open after 4th of July weekend.”

The town of Hanover cannot officially open the beach until there are enough lifeguards (12 to 15 minimum) hired to watch the beach, which is typically open from morning through early evening, weather permitting. Two lifeguards must be on duty at all times for swimmers’ safety and to allow for adequate break coverage.

Despite the raises ($12.25/hour for guards, $13.25/hour for head guard) that the town board approved at the June 25 board meeting, only a half dozen applications have been received, and Feldmann was concerned that some or all may have been withdrawn already.

“I’ve talked to several entities in the area trying to hire lifeguards this summer. All of them seem to be struggling. It’s definitely a smaller pool of applicants that we’re all trying to draw from.”

Lifeguard responsibilities include opening the restrooms, maintaining adequate supplies and minimal housekeeping. Although residents can visit the closed beach at their own risk, the restrooms cannot be opened until lifeguards are hired, much to the dismay of some at the July 9 board meeting.

“It’s a ‘catch 22,'” Feldmann explained. “If the town just opens and closes the restrooms each day without hiring someone to maintain them, people complain that they aren’t clean. We tried this before, and we had garbage cans dumped out, bathrooms sinks broken off the wall and even people defecating on the floor. So the solution right now is to just close them and save the clean up costs, which is also making people unhappy.”

Feldmann believes that part of the hiring struggle is that many would-be lifeguard applicants do not want to maintain the restrooms. At the recent town board meeting, the board discussed reducing the responsibilities of the lifeguards and hiring a part-time beach attendant. Responsibilities would include beach and restroom maintenance.

Other concerns raised at the town board meeting included the lack of additional patrols for the summer. Local resident Annie Neaf was concerned about increased drug activity at the beach, as she found empty boxes of the anti-opioid medication Suboxone there.

Feldmann emphasized, “It’s not that we don’t have a police presence or a contract with the Sheriff’s department. We just don’t have the enhanced summer coverage in place, as we’re still negotiating that contract.”

Each year, the town contracts with the village of Silver Creek to bring in village patrols. Typically in the summer, the board approves a contract to get an additional patrol car for busy areas, like Hanford and Sunset bays, especially on the weekends.

“We try to adjust our annual budget based on what the county is doing. This year, the enhanced police contract from the Sheriff’s department came in substantially higher, so we’re still in negotiations. It is tough when you create a budget in a small town. When a hidden cost comes in, it can really wreak havoc,” said Feldmann.

The town board is hopeful that an enhanced contract can be negotiated for the remainder of the summer. At the recent board meeting, Feldmann reiterated that anyone can still call 911 and receive help, as the annual contract with the Sheriff’s department is in place all year.

The town is still taking lifeguard applications; anyone interested can stop at the town offices or call the town at 934-2273 to have an application sent to them.