Swimming-pool owners in the city have until July 1 of the new year to put 4-foot-high fences around their pools or face criminal penalties.

The City Council passed an ordinance earlier this month that makes the requirement retroactive, affecting about a dozen of the city's 30 pool owners who now don't have fences. And anyone who wants to build a pool in the future also will have to comply.The council thought it had greatly improved safety for toddlers last year when it passed a similar ordinance. But a resident pointed out later that the action was not a health and safety ordinance, only a zoning change, and therefore didn't affect existing pools.

"We heard that there were some who thought the ordinance grandfathered their pools. But it was always the intent of the council to have every pool in the city have a fence around it," said Councilman Nathan Clark.

The action last year came after a resident on Lacy Way complained about the danger of several area pools.

The ordinance applies to any pool 24 inches or more deep with a surface area greater than 250 square feet, meaning it does not restrict access to hot tubs.

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Pool owners like the requirements but complained that the ordinance didn't account for new safety innovations in the pool industry, such as pool covers.

"A cover can be locked and disconnected (from a power source), and there's no way someone can get into it unless they used an ax," said Kenneth Martin, who owns a pool with a cover.People now owning pools without fences have until July 1, 1994, to comply. Violation of the ordinance is a Class B misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Any pool that is not fenced after that date will be cited separately for each day not in compliance.

"We feel strongly that our children need protection, and a properly locked fence can really help," Clark said.

The ordinance also limits openings in pool fences to no larger than 36 square inches, except for a gate, which must be equipped with self-closing and self-latching devices.

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