News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 3, 2013

City Council wades through pool safety

Arthur Foulkes
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — The Terre Haute City Council spent nearly an hour Thursday night wading through proposed changes to the city’s swimming pool safety rules.

Local regulations currently require private pool owners to have a 5-foot fence around their pools for safety reasons. Richard Shagley, a Terre Haute attorney, is asking the council to change those rules to allow people with electric pool covers to use those in place of fences.

“I don’t think there is a safer barrier than a pool cover,” Shagley told the council during its May “sunshine” meeting in City Hall. Some homeowners may not be able to afford both a fence and a pool cover, so the current city rule is forcing homeowners to select a “substandard form of protection,” he said.

He also said he knows of several responsible pool owners who only have electric pool covers at this time.

In a video demonstration provided to the nine-member council, Shagley showed the strength of a pool cover by walking across one. He also showed the covers have locking devices and can effectively keep people out of a pool when they are closed.

Meanwhile, a fence, Shagley said, is easily climbed by kids or could include a gate that must be kept closed for the fence to be effective.

Last month, Chou-il Lee, city attorney, argued against the changes proposed by Shagley, urging that the city retain the fence requirement for all private pools. Thursday night, Chuck Ennis, city engineer, also argued that, while an electric cover is a good supplement to a fence, it is no substitute.

Norm Loudermilk, council president, urged the council to table Shagley’s proposal this month, meaning no vote would take place at Thursday night’s regular meeting. In the meantime, the matter will be further studied by the council’s planning, zoning and improvements committee, headed by Councilman Neil Garrison, D-5th.

n Also Thursday, the council discussed the formal qualifications and duties for a financial consultant it is looking to hire to help sift through city financial questions.

Garrison, who has frequently questioned financial information provided to the council by the administration of Mayor Duke Bennett, has spearheaded efforts for the council to hire a financial consultant this year at a cost of $20,000.

According to a resolution to be voted on at the council’s meeting next Thursday, the consultant must be a licensed accounting professional with a minimum of 10 years experience and with specific knowledge of public financing.

As part of his or her duties, the consultant must conduct whatever research is needed “to assist the council in the review of city financial matters.”

No consultant has yet been selected for the job.

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or