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Colfax swimming pool ordinance: yes or no?

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  To enforce or not to enforce — that is the question regarding the village’s swimming pool ordinance.

The Colfax Village Board once again discussed enforcing the swimming pool ordinance at the July 28 meeting but did not make a decision beyond asking Jackie Ponto, administrator-clerk-treasurer, to seek an opinion from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.

Ponto has been concerned about the ordinance since she started working in Colfax two years ago.

The ordinance states that any swimming pool deeper than 15 inches must have a fence around it with a gate that can be locked.

The requirement for a fence with a gate is a safety provision intended to prevent the accidental drowning of children and pets.

Although the ordinance has been in effect for years, the village has never enforced it.

So the question becomes, if the village has an ordinance but does not enforce it, and if a tragedy should occur, does that place the village at greater liability for having an ordinance and acknowledging a hazard but not doing anything to prevent the hazard?


In response to an e-mail Ponto sent to the law firm representing the village, Ken Schofield of Schofield, Higley and Mayer, replied that he is of the opinion if the village is not going to enforce the ordinance, it should be repealed.

“If there is something about the ordinance that needs clarification in order for there to be enforcement, that is one thing. If it is simply going to be the case that we are not going to be enforcing the ordinance regardless of what is stated therein, then we should get rid of it to avoid any liability claims,” Schofield wrote.

According to the Colfax ordinance, pools that are not enclosed by a building are required to have a fence “of sufficient strength to prevent access to the pool. Such fence shall not be less than (6) feet in height and so constructed as not to have voids, holes or openings larger than (4) inches in one dimension … gates or doors shall be kept locked while the pool is not in actual use … the pool enclosure may be omitted where portable pools are installed above ground and have a raised deck around the entire pool perimeter with an attached enclosed railing a minimum of thirty-six (36) inches high on the top or where the sidewalls are a minimum of thirty-six (36) inches high and pool ladders can be secured when not in use.”


The repeal process for the ordinance would be to remove it when all of the ordinances are rewritten and the village board adopts the new set of ordinances, Ponto said.

Fred Weber, certified building inspector, noted that Ponto should check state regulations for any swimming pool requirements.

If the village no longer has a pool ordinance, that would remove the liability from the village, and the property owner would be responsible for the safety of the pool, said Scott Gunnufson, village president.

The Colfax Village Board did not take any action related to the swimming pool ordinance.

An Internet search for information on Wisconsin regulations related to swimming pools revealed that a number of municipalities require building permits for any swimming pool, both above-ground and in-ground, require fences around swimming pools (with various parameters for the pool, such as depth or width), along with setback requirements from lot lines, and a site plan for where the pool will be located and for the fence that would be constructed around the pool.

The Colfax Messenger sent an e-mail to Ponto asking if Colfax required a building permit for swimming pools.

Ponto replied back that swimming pools are not on the list of activities requiring a building permit.

Other business

In other business, the Colfax Village Board:

• Approved a bartender operator’s license for Alexandra Albricht from July 28 to June 30, 2015.

• Approved a contract with R.M Schlosser Excavating in the amount of $336,676.85 for the Fourth Avenue project. The street must be completed by October 15, and if the work is not completed by the deadline, a penalty of $770 per day will be enforced.