VLSC on solid legal footing, deserves support and more Latest News Here
Recently, a lot of misinformation has been circulating regarding the future of the Volunteer Life Saving Corps (VLSC). As a lawyer for the organization, and with their permission, I would like to set the record straight.
The VLSC is a fully independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established in 1912 – the same year the Girl Scouts were founded. For over a century, the VLSC, through its volunteer lifeguards, has protected beaches on Sundays and holidays year-round, while providing training to professional lifeguards employed by the Ocean Rescue Division (JBOR) of the city of Jacksonville Beach (COJB).
Due to a Department of Labor (DOL) investigation into some people working both as paid lifeguards for the city and as volunteers for the VLSC, the COJB overreacted. Rather than make a few minor changes, the city decided to take on full-time responsibility for beach patrol, including Sundays and holidays. By eliminating voluntary daycare entirely, the city effectively set the stage for the dissolution of the VLSC.
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The city said the DOL found the relationship between COJB and VLSC to be illegal. To be clear, the DOL did not determine that the relationship between the COJB and the VLSC was illegal. The DOL never said that the relationship between the VLSC and COJB should be dissolved.
This is a decision that was made by city leaders and was an over-correction. As long as the VLSC limits its membership to non-JBOR employees and each organization does its own training, the city will comply with DOL wage and hour laws.
In its decades of service, more than 4,000 VLSC members have recorded thousands of lifesaving rescues, assisted swimmers in distress and first aid cases while contributing more than 1.5 million hours of pro bono service to COJB, saving hundreds of taxpayers. thousands of dollars annually.
The VLSC has also long been a source of leadership development in our community and country. Former members include many doctors, nurses, military officers, special forces personnel, judges, business leaders, and clergy who readily attribute their success to the lessons they learned as volunteer guards. In short, the VLSC is a unique asset to our community – a real treasure.
The VLSC recently completed the monumental task of securing a successful petition to have a referendum placed on the November 8 ballot by exceeding the required 10% of certified voter signatures. Despite this, the Jacksonville Beach City Council voted to overturn the proposed referendum advancement, depriving voters in the community of the opportunity to have a say in this important issue. The VLSC must now wait for a judge to review the City’s requirement to put the referendum on the ballot.
The VLSC is an institution, a heritage, a tradition and a culture of service that transcends generations and social classes with the singular mission of saving lives on our beaches. I hope you will join and support our community’s efforts to #Savethe. You can help by placing signs in your yard, contacting your local council members, and educating your friends and neighbors about this important issue. Every grain of sand helps.
Michelle Bedoya Barnett, Partner, Alexander DeGance Barnett, PA
This guest column is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of The Times-Union. We welcome a diversity of opinions.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter was submitted before Thursday afternoon, when Circuit Court Judge Katie Dearing overturned City Council’s decision and the referendum will be added to the November ballot.
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