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Colfax contemplates ordinance revisions: swimming pool, pit bull, transient merchant, Dunn Street

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX —  The Colfax Village Board’s May 11 meeting was largely devoted to discussing ordinance revisions for swimming pools, pit bulls, transient merchants and adding Dunn Street to the list where truck traffic is prohibited.

Before the ordinance revisions can go into effect, the village board will have to approve the text of the amendments with the approved changes incorporated into the ordinance and will have to repeal the existing ordinances or portions of the existing ordinances.

The new ordinances would officially go into effect upon publication in the Colfax Messenger.

At the May 11 meeting, the village board either discussed or approved proposed changes but not the actual text amendments of the ordinances.

The village board also did not repeal the existing ordinances at the May 11 meeting and did not stipulate a publication date for the ordinances to go into effect.

Swimming pools

The village’s swimming pool ordinance has been a subject of discussion for the village board several times over the past several years.

The discussion has focused on whether the village board should enforce the swimming pool ordinance — which requires a six-foot fence with a locking gate be installed around any above-ground or in-ground pool — or whether the village board should repeal the ordinance.

At the May 11 meeting, village board members agreed that the swimming pool ordinance should be enforced as a matter of public safety and liability.

“We’re following state law by having an ordinance,” said Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer.

Many insurance companies will not allow homeowners to have a swimming pool without a fence, noted Dave Wolff, village trustee.

“It could come down to the insurance not covering the pool. People should check with their homeowner’s insurance,” Niggemann said.

Suggested changes to the ordinance included requiring a fence to be constructed within 45 days of installing the pool, grandfathering in existing fences that are four feet high (even though the existing ordinance stipulates a six-foot fence), requiring new pools to have six-foot fences, and if the pool does not have a fence within 45 days, the pool owner will be fined.

The Colfax Village Board approved a motion directing Niggemann and Colfax Police Chief Bill Anderson to research state statutes for the amount of the fine that could be levied for not having a fence around a swimming pool.

Pit bulls

The village’s ordinance about keeping pit bulls and other dangerous animals is vague and confusing, said Police Chief Anderson.

The first section of the ordinance says it is illegal to own a pit bull in the Village of Colfax. Pit bulls are defined as the Staffordshire bull terrier, the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier or any dog that has the appearance and characteristics of any of those three breeds.

The next section of the ordinance states that the provision not allowing pit bulls does not apply to pit bulls that are registered with the village but that the dogs must be kept according to certain provisions, such as if the dog is outside of its kennel, it must be on a four-foot leash, must be muzzled, and cannot be tied to a tree or post or building.

The ordinance also states that pit bull owners must put up a sign saying “Beware of Dog,” and must carry $50,000 in liability insurance.

“It’s something I thought should be clarified … the wording in the ordinance needs to be changed a bit so it is clearer,” Police Chief Anderson said.

Village Trustee Annie Schieber noted much depends upon how dogs are raised and that “there are chihuahuas in this community that are meaner than a pit bull.’”

“But if you have a chihuahua that goes crazy, it’s not going to do that much damage,” Police Chief Anderson said.

Village board members said Elk Mound’s pit bull and other regulated dogs and animals ordinance should be substituted for the Colfax ordinance.

Elk Mound’s ordinance lists seven regulated dogs, including Rottweilers.

The Elk Mound ordinance also requires owners of regulated dogs to carry $500,000 in liability insurance for bodily injury or death to any one person or $1 million in liability insurance for bodily injury or death from any one incident or accident.

Transient merchants

The Village of Colfax requires a transient merchant permit for merchants selling door-to-door in the village.

Obtaining a permit requires a $10 application fee, and the merchant must pay $5 per day or $50 for an annual permit.

Transient merchants include those businesses selling magazine subscriptions, meat and seafood, Niggemann said.

The transient merchant permit also would apply to a business that sets up a location for sales but is not a permanent business in the village, such as the Panda Chinese food truck previously located at Dollar General but now operating in the Kyle’s Market parking lot.

Police Chief Anderson said he and Sheila Riemer, deputy clerk, had checked through the village’s files and discovered that only a handful of permits had been issued in the last ten years.

Many of the transient merchants do not check in with the village clerk’s office, and if no one complains, the merchants do not get a permit, Niggemann said.

Niggemann said she had researched the issue and that it did not matter if the merchant was on public or private property, a permit was still required.

Village board members approved a motion that the transient merchant permit fee should be $45 per quarter (January, February, March) (April, May, June) (July, August, September) (October, November, December).

If a transient merchant operated in the village in February and then returned in April, for example, another permit would have to be obtained for $45.

Dunn Street

Trucks exiting Ackerman Dairy on Dunn Street often turn south and take Third, Fourth or Fifth Avenue to get back to state Highway 40/Main Street, said Scott Gunnufson, village president.

Fourth Avenue and Third Avenue, in addition to being narrow, will soon both be repaved, with Fourth Avenue to be under construction this summer and Third Avenue next year.

Fifth Avenue is a wider street, except at the intersection with Main Street at the location of Mike’s Auto Repair and the Dollar General Store, Gunnufson said.

Signs should be put up along the street by Ackerman Dairy indicating the truck route is to the north to Railroad Avenue, he said.

Several village board members wondered if Mark Ackerman was aware of the proposed change to the ordinance.

Ackerman was at a public hearing for the East View housing development and is aware of the problems with trucks on the residential streets on that side of town, Niggemann said.

Signs were installed around Woods Run not long ago to route traffic back to Main Street because Cedar Street is not built for truck traffic, said Mark Halpin, village trustee.

Not very many truck drivers violate the signs, “but you need plenty of signs for them to know where they should go,” he said.

Rand Bates, director of public works, said he had already ordered the signs.

“There is no reason for anyone to go to Third, Fourth or Fifth. They should all go north on Dunn to Railroad Avenue,” he said.

The Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion to add Dunn Street to the ordinance prohibiting truck traffic over 12,000 pounds except by written permit.

Other business

In other business, the Colfax Village Board:

• Approved a temporary Class “B”/ “Class B” retailer’s license for American Legion Post No. 131 from June 25 to June 29 for the Colfax Free Fair event.

• Approved a temporary Class “B”/ “Class B” retailer’s license for the Colfax Softball Association for June 19 to June 21 for the Colfax Softball Association League Tournament.

• Approved a temporary Class “B”/ “Class B” retailers license for the Colfax Softball Association for August 21 to August 23 for the Colfax Softball Association League Tournament.

• Approved resolutions designating public repositories and authorizations of withdrawal for village funds at Bremer Bank and Dairy State Bank to remove Beverly Schauer’s name as an authorized signer and to add Anne Schieber. Village President Scott Gunnufson and Village Administrator Lynn Niggemann also are authorized signers.

• Approved loaning $10,000 to the Colfax FFA Alumni for replacing the blue trim on the arts and crafts building at the fairgrounds, for a roof to match the refreshment stand at the fairgrounds, for replacing the wall steel and for two service doors on the building. The total cost of the project is $12,301. The FFA Alumni will pay back $10,000 of the amount over a four-year period, with the first payment due on December 31, 2015. The village will be responsible for $2,301 of the cost. The Colfax Fairgrounds is listed as one of the village’s parks.

• Noted that one of the invoices was for Tainter Machine for $220 for thawing frozen pipes. Last year, the total paid to Tainter Machine for thawing frozen pipes was over $20,000, according to Rand Bates, director of public works. It is the difference between a milder winter and a colder winter, Halpin said.