Avon Recreation Center approves part-time salary increase as it reopens at full capacity
Rec center is now facing certain limitations due to a lack of staff
After a challenging year, the Avon Recreation Center is free of its restrictions and ready to return to business as usual. But even with the restrictions and mandates lifted, it is still facing some of the pandemic’s effects as it reopens and recovers.
Following the lifting of Eagle County’s mask requirement on May 19, the rec center was able to phase out of many of its COVID-19 policies and procedures including social distancing requirements and reservations. Now, reservations are no longer required to use the rec center’s amenities.
This also includes the return of a normal summer of programs and events.
“We are really excited to be able to offer any programs this summer compared to last summer,” said Michael Labagh, the interim director of the Avon Recreation Center, at the June 22 Avon Town Council meeting.
This programming includes the return of outdoor fitness classes, summer camps, swim lessons and swim teams, as well as open water swims and the Dunk-n-Dash aquathlon series, both at Nottingham Lake.
With that being said, some of the protocols and procedures put in place during the pandemic’s peak are here to stay, according to Labagh. This includes increased cleaning procedures, lap swimming reservations, spacing and layout of equipment as well as the cross-training of rec center staff.
“Our conservative approach reopening last year in June, that was the same concept that we were going for now reopening and transitioning out of COVID,” Labagh said. “[It’s] all about maintaining that safe and comfortable environment for our staff and our patrons.”
However, like many of the county’s employers, the town and rec center are facing challenges with hiring a full staff of employees.
Currently, the rec center is operating with about 30 less part-time employees than a typical year. The department is also facing turnover within its leadership team. In the last month, the department’s services superintendent, services coordinator and recreation director either left or put in their notice.
“It’s my understanding that some of those positions left because of housing,” said Council member Scott Prince, adding that the lack of affordable housing “hits home with our own employees.”
According to Eric Heil, the Avon town manager, this is something the town is monitoring with regard to its employees.
“I think in a resort area there’s always some level of out-migration due to cost of living. Thirty years I’ve been seeing that. It’s a little higher right now, maybe double what we’ve seen before,” Heil said. “We do exit interviews, [and] it’s something we pay attention to, because we want to know why people are leaving.”
And while the rec center is able to operate at full capacity, certain limitations remain in place due to the lack of staff. This includes a smaller than normal cap on summer camp spots and swim lesson spots.
In order to fill some of these gaps in employment, and also remain a competitor in the local job market, the town approved increases to the starting salary at the rec center for its part-time hourly employees to $17 an hour. This is up from a starting salary for some positions of $15 an hour. Other hourly rates up to $20 an hour for its part-time rec center employees were increased by a range of $1.25 to $2 per hour. These new rates will be effective July 1.
“We’ve already seen several local businesses increase their minimum starting wage between $16 and $17 an hour, sometimes even more. That’s at our Home Depot, Walmart, town of Vail, Wendy’s even as well,” Labagh said.
According to Heil, the town was able to make this adjustment as a result of “cost savings this year because of some of the positions and turnover.”
While the town did not make any adjustments for its other hourly employees, it is, according to Heil, currently evaluating part-time hourly rates in other departments.
“The town’s policy is to provide a competitive wage rate based on industry and peer comparisons for each position,” wrote Heil in an email.
Reporter Ali Longwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.