Fort Lauderdale's efforts to project an upscale image now extend to its lifeguard stands. The city has installed eight new stands that come with spacious interiors, aluminum siding, bulletproof glass and ramps--at a cost of $28,000 each. They are a far cry from the old, rickety wooden structures that rotted and attracted bugs.
But since their unveiling last May, the stands have sat unused on the beach due to safety concerns. "They've been getting rave reviews, but we've had to make a few little tweaks," says Stu Marvin, operations manager for the beach patrol.
While waiting for safety features such as doorstops, handrails and treads along the ramp to be installed, officials also have been alerted to the possibility of ventilation problems come summertime. Apparently, the side windows don't open, which could cause the stands to heat up like saunas. "We might see some problems in the summer months when the winds change," says Ernest Burkeen, parks and recreation director. But for now, no changes are planned.
Seven additional stands are also awaiting the new safety features, and it is unknown when they will be completed.
Despite the delays and some public criticism about the cost, Burkeen touts the greater visibility and accessibility to the beach that the new towers will provide. The ramps lead straight into the water so lifeguards will be able to see swimmers at all times. The stands also allow for two lifeguards to be stationed there comfortably, and they are not as high off the ground as they used to be, potentially reducing the number of lifeguard injuries.