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More Janesville pools would need fences under ordinance proposal

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
November 3, 2011
— Backyard pools as shallow as 24 inches would require a fence under proposed changes to a Janesville city ordinance.

The changes also would reduce the minimum fence height for all pools from 5 feet to 4 feet.


The city council will consider the proposed changes Monday, Nov. 14. A public hearing is scheduled.


“We feel that a temporary pool is like any permanent pool,” said Gale Price of the city’s community development department. “It’s a water body that poses a potential hazard without some kind of protection around it.


“They continue to grow in size, and as they get bigger, these regulations come into play,” Price said.


How many people violate the pool fencing ordinances? Price declined to speculate.


“It’s a lot,” he said.


The ordinance now requires a fence at least 5 feet tall around pools and hot tubs with sides that are 30 inches or taller. The council will consider lowering the minimum fence height to 4 feet but requiring fences around smaller pools—those with sides 24 inches or taller.


A resident contacted city council members about the pool fencing issue earlier this summer. She has a temporary pool with 30-inch sides surrounded by a 4-foot fence, putting her in violation of the ordinance.


State statutes require that public pools have fences at least 5 feet tall, which is what the city based its ordinance on when regulating private pools, Price said.


But the state doesn’t regulate private pools.


The resident noted that 5 feet is a non-standard fence size and suggested the city require 4-foot fences around pools that are 30 inches or taller. She also didn’t believe temporary pools should need fencing at all.


Council members discussed the issue briefly at an earlier meeting. They said they were concerned about child safety but agreed the 5-foot fence requirement probably could be lowered to 4 feet.


Several members, however, said temporary pools are as dangerous as permanent pools and suggested that pools as short as 24 inches be regulated, too.


According to the proposed ordinance, violators could be fined not less than $25 and no more than $500.


The city focuses on what is safest, Price said.


“Our goal overall is to protect kids from drowning,” he said.


The proposed ordinance includes a requirement that above-ground pools with sides 4-feet tall have a 1-foot rail on the top. Although pool owners could lock their ladders, Price said children still could climb over the sides.


“We just want to make sure where you have the body of water right on the other side of that sidewalk—and if it’s only 4 feet (tall)—there’s something there additionally to keep someone from falling in,” Price said.


Residents with above-ground pools with sides 4 feet tall already should be following that requirement, he said.



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