Volunteer lifeguards collecting signatures to put issue of lifeguard station access on November ballot

Effort is latest development in ongoing spat between city of Jacksonville Beach, Volunteer Life Saving Corps

The Corps wants voters to decide who has access to the station originally constructed for the group 75 years ago.

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – The Volunteer Life Saving Corps wants voters to decide who can access the lifeguard station at Jacksonville Beach.

The issue goes back to earlier this year when the Corps was locked out of the building and its contract was terminated. It was a major controversy for the Jacksonville Beach area.

Negotiations had been underway when tensions came to a head and the city cut ties with the group in April, after an investigation by the Department of Labor found city lifeguards couldn’t be paid some days and then volunteer for others.

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It’s been noted that replacing the volunteer lifeguards could cost an additional $125,000 a year -- with taxpayers footing the bill.

The VLSC has launched a signup campaign to try to collect at least 1,800 signatures by Aug. 9. If the goal is met, the decision on whom has access to the station will be up to the voters during the Nov. 8 election.

In a statement, Volunteer Life Saving Board of Directors President Jim Emery said the public still supports the Corps.

He went on to say, “We have tried earnestly to negotiate with the City of Jacksonville Beach to no avail and believe that this is the best option to remain operational.”

Emery added they hope the public will continue to make their voices heard.

Emery said the 4,000 VLSC members provided over 1,606,000 service hours since it began in 1912. He added that they have performed thousands of life-saving rescues, assisted swimmers in distress and administered nearly 27,000 first-aid cases.

The Corps has not said where the sign-up locations will be in the beaches area.

About the Author:

Ashley Harding joined the Channel 4 news team in March 2013. She reports for and anchors The Morning Show.