Palm Beach County holds closed talks Tuesday on lifeguards’ ‘risk’ status

092516-pbc-lifeguards-3Palm Beach County ocean lifeguards’ years-long fight for “special risk” status is set to go behind closed doors Tuesday.

County administrators plan to meet with commissioners before Tuesday’s regular meeting to discuss the concept. Because it’s a form of collective bargaining, the meeting will be behind closed doors. County Commissioner Melissa McKinlay would say Wednesday only that it will cover “the staff direction we gave at previous meetings.”

The lifeguards have tried to get the county to grant them a state-permitted classification, which would nearly double the amount of their Florida Retirement System pensions and would allow them to retire earlier. The county has balked.

But in late September, commissioners directed staff to research supporting state legislation that would automatically apply “special risk” to ocean rescue guards.

Commissioners also have asked county staff to look into changing the job description for ocean rescue guards, perhaps to have them automatically declared EMTs — emergency medical technicians — which also would help the county avoid having to give back-benefits to previous lifeguards.

And the county has suggested across-the-board raises.

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