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New Buffalo leaders have decided to keep lifeguard program for the summer

New Buffalo leaders have decided to keep lifeguard program for the summer. // WSBT 22 photo

If you're planning a trip to the New Buffalo beach this summer, you can breathe a little easier.

Lifeguards will be on duty.

This decision might not be permanent. New Buffalo's mayor says the city council will have to reconsider eliminating the guard program in the fall.

But a lot of people at Monday’s meeting say the program shouldn't go anywhere, ever.

Even on a cloudy cool day like Monday there are people here at the beach.

As temperatures warm up, the playground and concession stand will attract even more.

Concerned beach goers say visitors deserve protection.

"The worst experience I've ever had working here as a lifeguard at this beach,” said Jarvis Tarnowski, former head lifeguard.

Tarnowski says he was hurt by comments from City Manager David Richards that he couldn't hire enough qualified lifeguards.

Tarnowski says if his team wasn't up to the job, it was because they were set up for failure. They couldn't even get basic equipment, like whistles or radios.

“It would take too long of time to get it down there when we needed,” said Tarnowski.

“We need to take now a closer look at our program, not just from a lifeguard position but from an administration program, from business and from training and amenities for lifeguards that they need,” said Liz Ennis, mayor pro tem.

Just last week the discussion wasn't about improving the guard program. It was about elimination.

“We were swayed by advice that in this litigious society, we are more liable to suit with lifeguards than without lifeguards,” said Ennis.

"I think this beach would get more lawsuits without lifeguards if a drowning happens. Cities have sovereign immunity which means they can't be sued unless it's gross negligence,” said Dave Benjamin, Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.

Benjamin says that would include knowingly getting rid of a safety net, such as lifeguards. He and many others have spoken in support of the lifeguard program. They aren't alone.

“Lots of us on the council were concerned from the beginning, as I was, personally. I personally believe we need lifeguards,” said Ennis.

Tarnowski says he made five water rescues at this beach last summer.

He says he was able to because of how close he was to the water.

He hopes those rescues can continue to happen.

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