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Colfax resident objects to pool ordinance fence requirement

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX — For several years, the Colfax Village Board grappled with the swimming pool ordinance and whether to enforce it or whether to repeal it.

Advice from the village’s attorney indicated that the village should either enforce the ordinance or repeal it — but not keep the ordinance and not enforce it.

At the May 26 meeting, the Colfax Village Board approved an amendment to the fence portion of the swimming pool ordinance requiring existing fences around swimming pools to be a minimum of four feet in height and requiring all new swimming pools to have a fence a minimum of six feet in height.

Chris Edwards, a resident on Oliver Lane, spoke to the Colfax Village Board at the June 22 meeting to object to the fence requirement.

Edwards attended the meeting because of an application he had submitted for the renewal of a chicken license.

Village President Scott Gunnufson was unaware that Edwards had intended to also address the village board during the public comments portion of the meeting.

At the end of the village board meeting, the Colfax Village Board unanimously approved a motion to reopen the public appearances.

Edwards said he had built a fence around his yard because he has a trampoline and a swimming pool.

The fence primarily was intended to keep children and pets from wandering out onto county Highway M, he said.

Meeting the requirement in the swimming pool ordinance for the fence around his yard will require significant expense, Edwards said.

The neighborhood children understand the rules that they cannot use the swimming pool when the Edwards family is not at home, he said, adding that his own children also are taught not to go onto the property of another without permission.

If children come onto the property where the pool is located without permission and without the Edwards family being at home, they would be trespassing, Edwards said.

“(We) cannot be responsible for every child in town,” he said.

Edwards said he has a friend who is a lawyer, and his friend had advised that having the ordinance opens up the possibility of lawsuits because if a child sneaks onto the property and a tragedy occurs, then the property owner becomes responsible.

If a child sneaks into a pool area and drowns, Edwards said he “could not see” filing a lawsuit against the pool owner for what the child did since the child would have been trespassing.

Lynn Niggemann, village administrator-clerk-treasurer, suggested that Edwards check with his insurance company.

Some homeowner’s or renter’s policies have requirements for swimming pool fences that are stricter than the village’s ordinance, she said.

A homeowner or a renter could have a coverage problem, and the coverage could be compromised without the type of fence specified by the insurance company, Niggemann said.

Edwards said he had checked with his insurance company and that there were no problems.

The “climbability” of the Edwards’ fence is a concern, Niggemann said.

The amendment to the swimming pool ordinance for the fence requirement was officially published in the Colfax Messenger June 24.

The ordinance went into effect June 25.

Since Edwards talked about the swimming pool ordinance during the public appearances portion of the meeting, the swimming pool ordinance was not an agenda item for the Colfax Village Board’s June 22 meeting, so the village board could not legally discuss the ordinance or take any action pertaining to it.