A group of Ocean Shores Elementary School students urged the City Council Monday night to continue seeking state or county support and grant funds to keep the Ocean Shores Surf Rescue service operating in the future.
The fifth and sixth graders in teacher Beth Rockey’s “Project Citizen” class made a presentation to the council during its regular meeting Monday night after studying the decision to cut the $52,000 for the Surf Rescue program to save money in the city’s 2013 budget.
“Thank you for hearing our opinions. We urge you to reopen surf rescue,” concluded Tyson Owen, one of the class members to address the council from the public podium.
Others at the meeting included Lucius Veiga, Trent Ryan, Mimi Johnson, Gage Meeley, Evan Johnson, Reagan Harnagy, Isabel Harnagy, Felicity and Amber Baker.
Councilwoman Jackie Farra admitted she was just as nervous as the students in introducing them to the council. The council had voted 4-3 the previous regular session to block Mayor Crystal Dingler’s attempt to restart the service of city police and firefighters, who get extra pay for participating and training.
“I’m proud of all of you,” Farra said of the students, who examined all sides of the issue and even interviewed council members prior to reaching conclusions and drafting their own report back to the city.
Teacher Beth Rockey explained the reading class that uses the citizen-based, nationwide curriculum involved 13 students in all. The focus is for the students to identify a public policy problem in the community, study and discuss it, and then develop portfolios that address possible solutions, including ones that ultimately might not work.
“They worked really hard and put a lot of critical thinking into this,” Rockey said, adding: “They are going to grow up to be engaged, they’re going to be productive citizens, and they know how to get their voice heard.”
Trent Ryan, who wrote an essay about Surf Rescue and submitted it as a letter to the editor, laid out the dilemma: “It’s a pretty serious problem. but most of the calls were false alarms of people who might have mistaken other people from drowning.”
The reasons people want to keep the Surf Rescue program operating, Trent said, are “the lives saved and the safety they feel when they are out on the beach. One reason that people likely don’t want it is because of the tight budgets.”
Mimi Johnson said her group examined alternative policies for the program, which included some “we are sure are not going to work.” Those were a toll both at the beaches where a gated both would be set up to collect a fee; another unworkable idea proved to be a limit on the time that people could be on the beaches, such as keeping people off when the tide is high or the current is strong.
“People go to the beach at all sorts of times, therefore this idea is not the best,” Mimi said. “There is not really a way to enforce this.”
The solutions, however, that could work, she said, would be to ask the state or the county to provide funds, or to ask for grants.
“We could also ask the Coast Guard for money to help reinstate Surf Rescue,” Mimi said.
Reagan Harnagy explained those were the overall solutions arrived at by the class: “Ask the state and/or county to help subsidize some or all of the money needed to reinstate Surf Rescue and continue to keep it open.”
The class also would propose that officers participating “get paid a flat salary. This would help costs because currently members get paid a percentage of what they already make,” Reagan said.
Noting the mayor had already received some money from grants (Grays Harbor Foundation), Reagan said the class also urged the city to pursue more grant funding.
“If we were to close down Surf Rescue completely, it would definitely hurt our tourism,” Lucius Veiga concluded. “And since Ocean Shores has a lot of tourists, that would definitely not be good. So I hope that changes your mind if you did not already think we needed Surf Rescue.”