CHIPPEWA FALLS — The Chippewa Falls City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday that bans swimming or boating within 50 feet of the Glen Loch dam in Irvine Park.
The measure passed on a 6-1 vote. The plan includes placing “Keep Out” signs and buoys and putting up fencing on both the east and west sides to prohibit people from getting onto the dam.
Council President Rob Kiefer, who cast the lone vote against the ordinance, asked if the city could simply put up a sign that warns people to “swim at your own risk.” City attorney Bob Ferg replied he would have to check state statutes to see if that would cover the city on any liability issues.
City engineer Rick Rubenzer said the city is not required to place the signs as part of money for repairing the dam. He described it as decorative fencing and not chain-link fencing. The signs are all part of the $2.1 million improvement of the east shore of Glen Loch Lake, which includes a new handicap-accessible pier, boat and kayak launches, and a pedestrian bridge. Construction is underway and should be complete in 2019.
Former Chippewa Falls Councilman Jack Covill spoke against the proposal to place signs and ban swimming.
“I don’t see why not leave the rest alone,” Covill said. “It’s been that way for years. There is danger in anything, but I don’t think it has historically been more dangerous than swimming at the pool downtown.”
There have been injuries and fatalities in the past from youths jumping off the dam. In June 2002, 14-year-old Tony Cheever of Chippewa Falls died from drowning while playing at the Glen Loch dam.
Leader-Telegram records show that a girl was injured in the water below the dam in June 2013.
City resident Dale Hutchinson also spoke against the plan to eliminate swimming at the dam. He said kids should be allowed to swim in the area.
Fines for violations would be $500 for the first offense and $1,000 for each additional offense within the next year. Rubenzer said the city could change the fine levels.
In other news, the council authorized bonding for $1.03 million for street improvement projects, $255,000 for library projects, $365,000 for sewer projects and $3 million for refinancing old debt.
In one final note, a city resident addressed a proposal to ban flying lanterns — which could be considered a fire hazard.
City resident Dennis Buttke was opposed to the proposal.
“I think you’ll create an ordinance that would be almost impossible to enforce,” Buttke said.
In particular, it would be challenging to ban ones from outside Chippewa Falls from entering city limits, he said.
The issue was not discussed further by the council Tuesday.