Lifeguards saved two teens from drowning at Ludington’s Stearns Park Sunday and also helped a young girl who got in too deep Friday afternoon. 


Three lifeguards — Spencer Lindbloom, Cassie Sarto and Ryan Russell — were on duty at the time and Ludington Mayor John Henderson said "Sarto brought in one of the boys while Lindbloom brought both the other boy and a local man who was trying to help in to shore."


This is why we have lifeguards at the beach, to provide life-rescuing service,” Henderson added. “I think it is one of the most important programs we have, with six blocks of Lake Michigan beach, it needs to be protected by lifeguards.”


The local man who attempted to help during the rescue is a first responder who was at the beach Sunday with his family when he saw the lifeguards sprint into the water with their rescue tubes. “The man had trouble and needed Lindbloom’s help to get back to shore”, Henderson said.


He said those kids (lifeguards) are in great shape and he had trouble in the water,” Henderson said. “He said Spencer (Lindbloom) was strong enough to pull both (the man and the teen) back in.”  Henderson said “two lifeguards — Dylan Lindbloom and Blake Reimer — helped a girl after she got out in deep water at 4:35 p.m. Friday”.  (Ludington Daily News, 6-29-09)


We didn't always have these young heroes patrolling our shore.  Mayor Henderson made reinstating the lifeguards at Stearn Park a cornerstone of his campaign back in 2001, and he was able to get a lifeguard crew and equipment together the summer after his election.  He pointed to it as the main highlight of his first year (LDN, 12-30-02).


After barely surviving the city budget ax in 2003 (LDN, 11-25-03), the City Manager saved $27,000 by eliminating lifeguards in 2004.  His reason was that his liability insurance provider said it would be worse for the city financially if someone drowned in the presence of lifeguards than if the city did not provide that service, an argument often quoted (LDN, 12-7-04).  Mayor Henderson remained publicly quiet on the topic.


After a two year absence, and during better economic times, lifeguards came back in 2007 and remained until this year, despite continued opposition by Councilor Paul S. Peterson who claimed they were unnecessary, that there is something wrong when Ludington is the only community on the shore of Lake Michigan that has lifeguards, and that the money could be better spent elsewhere (LDN, 11-28-06 and 11-30-07). 


Four months into 2008, a woman publicly thanked the lifeguard Derek Karl for saving the lives of her son and other teens caught in a rip current at Stearn’s beach in 2007 during a city council meeting(no comment from Paul S. Peterson) (LDN, 4-15-08).  This catches us up to this last year’s heroics in June that saved the two boys and a girl that started this thread.

A little over two months later (8-31-09) the city council met in a special session to approve a new project costing $826,440 of public monies.  A new 1,000-foot dock along the north wall of the city marina giving boaters more of an opportunity to visit Ludington. Boaters wouldl be able to tie up to the dock during the day, walk downtown, then choose to get a slip for the night or head back out again.


The goal is to bring more boaters downtown,” said Ludington Mayor John Henderson, who said he had the idea for the project after visiting Pentwater by boat for an evening.  He made a drawing on a napkin and that started the project in motion. That was three years ago (LDN, 9-1-09)


Three years ago coincided with when the City Marina started losing money due to fewer boats and less people boating (LDN 4-17-09).  Sounds like they already have more boat slips than what they need during these times.  This ‘improvement’ does not help Ludington citizens or our tourists except for allowing the affluent among them to park their boat along Loomis St. to maybe save less than a blocks worth of walk to the downtown area.  


Nearly three months later, the budget for 2010 called for cutting five full-time city positions, not hiring lifeguards and other seasonal employees, freezing salaries for two years and raising rates for several city fees.  This was passed two weeks later, with no public comment from Mayor Henderson either time about the lifeguards


He had no accolades for the heroic lifeguards who saved three children and one man just 5 months prior.  No quotes about how necessary and important these lifeguards were.  No appreciation for all the times the lifeguards had helped with a variety of summertime city projects, such as helping at Friday Night Lives or painting fire hydrants.  He just sat in his chair and listened as five full-time city employees and seven lifeguards were given their pink slips while perhaps thinking to himself what a fine legacy his transient docks would be.


Assuming the average cost of lifeguards over the last three years remained constant, the money involved with Mayor Henderson's brilliant idea to expand the city marina could have funded the lifeguard program in Ludington for 33 years ($826,000/$25,000).  Seven summer jobs for 33 years with who knows how many lives being saved or a few currently-unneeded transient boat slips?  Is this really the choice they made?


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I think a lot of the public apathy as concerns the city council meetings is due to the perceived "apathy" of the city council members, city manager, mayor, et. al. to the general populace. I was a bit put off when I heard discussions between the fire chief and the mayor at LFD meetings (both of whom attend most council meetings), when I was a member of that group, that totally dissed attendees of the council meetings for their viewpoints. They also sometimes vented against members of the council who were against pet projects of the mayor or LFD.

I usually have a scheduling conflict which makes me unable to attend most Monday night meetings, but I would encourage anyone who can, to make their voices heard at these meetings or through any other outlet, for your observation is undeniably correct, John.


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