The Honolulu City Council heard budget proposals from emergency personnel departments on Thursday.
There weren’t major increases from Honolulu Police and Honolulu Fire Departments, both asking for an additional 1.5% increase from last year’s budget.
However, it was a lack of increase in funds for Ocean Safety that surprised one council member and lifeguard.
Ocean Safety says over 23 million people visited Oahu beaches in 2017.
In that year, the Department of Health says 37 people drowned in waters off of Oahu.
“Drowning is one of the top reasons for our accidental deaths on Oahu,” said council member Kymberly Marcos Pine. “And we really need to take this more seriously.”
For Fiscal Year 2020, Ocean Safety asked for .35% boost in finances.
One lifeguard sent in anonymous testimony, writing that .35% is not enough.
The lifeguard states lifeguard towers are unsafe and that safety equipment is stored in bathroom closets at beach parks.
The lifeguard goes on to write that lifeguards are working overtime across Oahu and should be paid what lifeguards on the mainland get paid.
“I was disappointed that despite having a quarter of a million visitors who come to our island that we did not dramatically increase the number of lifeguards on Oahu,” council member Pine said.
“We need to pay our lifeguards more, we need to have more lifeguards and they need to have better equipment to be able to serve the population and our guests to Oahu,” she said.
Both councilwoman Pine and the lifeguard think extended hours should be a priority island-wide.
For now, the sunrise to sunset, 10-hour, pilot program is happening at Hanauma Bay.
After the pilot is completed, ocean safety will discuss whether it should be implemented island-wide.
Ocean safety says there are currently 225 full time lifeguards on Oahu and it hopes to add 13 more in 2020.
Ocean safety did announce they will add a lifeguard at Haleiwa Alii Beach Park soon, which was included in their budget.