Will County resident seeks change in pool safety law
BY CINDY WOJDYLA CAIN firstname.lastname@example.org October 15, 2013 11:05PM
A Will County resident from Beecher seeks a change in pool safety law. | File photo
Updated: November 17, 2013 6:31AM
JOLIET — Will County officials have been asked to allow residents of unincorporated areas to substitute automatic pool covers for fences as a safety measure to prevent drownings.
The county now requires all pools, whether above-ground or in-ground, to be enclosed with a fence. But a Beecher resident has asked the county to amend its ordinance to allow people to use automatic pool covers instead.
A letter from the resident was read at Tuesday’s land-use and development committee meeting.
Automatic pool covers seal a pool with the push of a button, county land-use director Curt Paddock said. Proponents believe it is a secure way to restrict access to a pool because the rigid covers provide a seamless fit around a pool, he said. However, most safety advocates recommend a fence no matter what other measures are taken, he said.
“Power covers are dependent on people, motion and electricity,” said Ray Semplinski, the county’s chief building official. “If any of these things fail, it’s a problem.”
Pool owners must surround any vessel that can contain 2 feet of water or more with a barrier that is at least 60 inches tall. The barriers must meet other safety requirements, too, Semplinski said. For instance, a wire fence must be structured so someone can’t put their feet in openings and climb over, he said.
Committee members agreed to discuss the matter further at their next meeting, which begins at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 12 at the Will County Office Building, 302 N. Chicago St. Paddock said his department would research the automatic pool cover issue for committee members so they could make an informed decision.
Committee member Mike Fricilone, R-Homer Glen, said a child drowned in a pool in his district this year, and he has a friend whose child drowned in a pool several years ago.
If someone gets a phone call and goes in the house for a few minutes, but is in there longer than anticipated, the automatic pool cover doesn’t activate on its own, he said.
“We could have another tragedy,” he said of allowing pool covers to replaces fences. “ ... I really think we need to take a hard look at it.”
County board member Judy Ogalla, R-Monee, said some people comply with the pool enclosure ordinance, and some don’t. The county’s website is not very user-friendly when it comes to explaining pool safety rules, she said.
“It’s very confusing,” she said.
Paddock said every pool owner is given all of the information needed to comply with county codes when they apply for pool permits. They also must sign an affidavit saying they are aware of the county’s enclosure rule. He noted that there is no single pool ordinance; rules about pools instead are contained in both the building code and zoning ordinances.
County code enforcement officers do not ride around looking for violations. The county’s enforcement system is complaint-driven, which means inspections are only made when a complaint is lodged, he said.
Committee Vice Chairman Bob Howard, D-Beecher, said perhaps the pool enclosure rules could be different for residents who live in rural areas where yards are multiple acres and there is no chance of someone wandering into a back yard by accident.
There is “more of a chance of getting shot in your neighbor’s yard than drowning in their pool,” he said.
As it stands now, the law requires all pool owners to erect fences no matter how big their lots are, Paddock said.
“It doesn’t make a distinction between a rural zone and a suburban zone,” he said.