BusinessNewsThe SouthSider

City has plenty of jobs, but few to fill them

CITY HALL – Don’t be surprised if the grass starts getting long and the pools don’t open. The city Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry is ready to pay good hourly wages to hire workers for lawn mowing, as lifeguards and for other seasonal jobs.

But nobody’s applying.

The situation is so serious that Parks Director Greg Hayes told a Board of Aldermen committee that the city’s pools might not open this weekend.

“At the end of the day, we need folks, and we’re desperate for folks,” Hayes told the board’s Ways and Means Committee. Hayes appeared before the committee as part of its review of the city’s proposed budget.

Hayes said it was a real struggle to find short-term workers to cut the grass twice a week in all city parks from April through September.

“We currently have 36 individuals cutting grass in these parks, and we need 75 to 80,” Hayes explained.

 “We are dealing with something that could be a very significant issue,” Hayes said. “I cannot believe what our crews are doing to limit the number of concerns from citizens, and we’re working overtime, which is unprecedented in parks.”

Without enough lifeguards and lifeguards supervisors, the city can’t open its seven pools this summer, including these three outside pools: Chambers Pool, Fairgrounds Pool and Marquette Pool. The city also needs recreation assistants.

The Forestry Division, which performs such tasks as cutting grass in public spaces, has 30 part-time workers, when it should have 70.

“You can live in Arnold, Granite City, Chesterfield, Wellston, it does not matter for a seasonal employee, so there is no deterrence there to hiring,” Hayes said. “We are not getting the folks coming to us from the personnel department.”

One major problem in getting enough people is police background checks. The city isn’t getting many of them back.

Also, Hayes said, the city has an inordinate number of failed drug tests, including for marijuana. 

Twenty-Second Ward Alderman Jeffrey Boyd said marijuana shouldn’t be an issue. 

“That’s such a minor infraction these days that we shouldn’t be looking at that, especially when people are having cards for medicinal purposes,” Boyd argued.

Parks Commissioner Kimberly Haegele said that if applications were using marijuana for medication, they were told they should mention that when they were at a testing facility.

“Take that drug, bring your medicine with you, so that you can tell them up front right there,” she said.

Lifeguards earn $15 an hour and lifeguard supervisors $15.02 an hour. Those applying must be at least 15. Recreation assistants are paid $15.01 an hour and must have experience in coaching, officiating or being involved in sports. 

Short-term utility workers make $15 an hour and must be at least 16 to apply. They do semi-skilled work and operate equipment in streets, parks, grounds and city facilities. Their jobs include maintaining streets, removing litter, mowing, trimming, replacing street signs, and loading soil and plants.

Those seeking those summer jobs or other positions with the city can apply at www.stlouis-mo.gov/jobs/.

Jim Merkel

southsidemerkel@gmail.com Born and raised in the St. Louis area, Jim Merkel covered communities throughout the area from 1991 to 2013 for the old Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis. He is the author of five books about the Gateway City published by Reedy Press. The latest is Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades. He and his wife, Lorraine, live in the Bevo Mill neighborhood of south St. Louis with Miss Jenny the Cat. For more about Jim, visit www.jimmerkelthewriter.com.

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