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P.I. council limits where offenders can live

PINE ISLAND — Level III sex offenders, who have been deemed most likely to reoffend, will have a harder time finding a home in Pine Island.

The city council voted 4-1 Tuesday night to amend the city code regulating where predatory offenders can live.

The changes will prohibit any Level III sex offenders from living within 2,000 feet of a school, licensed day care, park or other areas where children commonly congregate. Councilman Joel Knox was the lone vote against the change, saying the current state statutes requiring a public hearing when a Level III offender moves into town as sufficient to safeguard the public.

"It just seems punitive," Knox said. "I'm not sure we're the right body for this, even though it's a zoning ordinance."

Council member Eric Diskerud sad that Level III offenders are the most likely to repeat their crimes. A map of Pine Island with the 2,000-foot radius drawn from prohibited places showed very few living options left for Level III offenders in the city.


"Is it punitive?" Mayor Rod Steele asked rhetorically. "Yeah. But is it warranted? Probably."

Knox said his biggest concern was that if sex offenders cannot find a place to live that meets the new guidelines, then they will find a residence and lie about it to law enforcement. "They'll take it underground," he said.

The council was split during a discussion of the renovation of the city's swimming pool. Half the council was ready to dive into a ballot referendum while the other half urged caution, with Steele siding with the cautious half of the council.

Because the city's pool is not handicapped accessible, it does not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The pool has been cited for code violations, and the state has urged the city to come up with a plan to bring the pool into compliance.

"We had been asked to put the pool on the back burner until the Pine Island school referendum had run its course," said Janet Pike, a member of the Park Board's pool committee. "And now that time has come."

Members of the committee again showed plans from U.S. Aquatics that would use the shell of the current swimming pool to create a water park-like pool that could include water slides and even a climbing wall, among other amenities. It would also have a zero-depth entrance that would make the pool ADA compliant.

The base project from U.S. Aquatics, a company that designs swimming pools, would cost $2.1 million and include upgrades to the changing rooms, new staff space and concessions areas, a splash pool where slides could be placed and a zero-depth pool for wheel chairs and young children.

Additional tiers to the plan could include slides, a climbing wall and other amenities for a total of $2.8 million.


Steele said that the problem with bonding for the pool would be the effect that it would have on the city's bond rating. It could also require the city to put off needed street improvements in Pine Island.

"It's not that we don't think this community needs a pool," Steele said. "Everyone up here thinks we need a pool."

To move forward on the project – something the state said it requires – Knox proposed a motion to add a ballot measure asking voters to decide whether or not to support a $2.4 million bond for upgrades and renovations to the pool. But that motion was defeated 3-2 with the mayor, Diskerud and councilman Jerry Vettel voting against a bond referendum at this time.

Instead, the city council set a public meeting for June 1 at 6 p.m. in the council chambers to discuss the pool with citizens. The council also asked city staff to come back with numbers on what upgrades the city can afford right now to become ADA compliant – such as purchasing a chair lift – or upgrades to the changing rooms to become ADA compliant there.

"There's nobody on that council that doesn't want a pool," Diskerud said. "The question is, what can we afford to do?"

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