Volusia County is giving its Beach Patrol four new tower chairs for lifeguards at a cost of $82,000. The chairs are equipped with wheels, leveling jacks, and trailer hitches. Beach Safety Director Mark Swanson says they plan to deploy the four chairs in the highest beach traffic areas.
"It puts the lifeguard at a higher level to where they can watch the ocean even better than they can right now. We're all focused on being preventive and keeping people from getting into those situations, so the higher we elevate ourselves the better we can watch the swimmers. We're more visible out there. We're able to bring the lifeguards in out of the elements, out of the sun, out of the wind and rain."
Volusia County GOP Chairman Tony Ledbetter tells FOX 35 he is insulted with the purchase as a taxpayer.
"The red lifeguard beach chairs have been around for years and years and years. It's not the right time to be spending more of our taxpayers money for these, as I call them, 'Baywatch' beach chairs."
Safety Director Swanson says for the most part, lifeguards will remain in the well known red beach chairs, at least for now.
"We're using these now to experiment to see how they work out on the beach, to use in the high visibility areas where the crowds are most prevalent, and we're going to look at those, and we can move them where we need to move them, but the other towers are going to stay because we can put those towers in between the larger towers."
Some of the Beach Patrol officers sit in the lifeguard chairs during the off season to watch swimmers. Since many of those are trained law enforcement officers they carry guns. In the current chair, there is no place to store a gun. The new chairs will have storage, ladders and protection from the elements. Tony Ledbetter says those reasons are just not good enough.
"The government tells us that they are broke, that they have no money. They want $11 million more of our money for a property tax increase, and yet they can find $80,000 to spend on these chairs."
Of the $82,000, Volusia County will spend on the four chairs, $7,000 of it will be to ship the chairs from California. The chairs are made of fiberglass and have a lifespan of 20 years. The current wooden chairs last 2 years on average.
There is one more cost for the four chairs coming. They will be wrapped in some type of wrapping, but neither the Beach Safety Director, nor the County Manager could estimate the costs.