Gilbert pool owners who install a secondary fence around their pools will be offered a rebate on the cost of the fence permit, under a change approved Tuesday by the Town Council.
The town’s $250 pool permit and $50 fence permit fees will be waived for future pool owners who build an optional secondary fence. Current pool owners who install the fence will be rebated the $50 fence permit fee.
Mayor Steve Berman proposed the plan in April, one day after the death of two sisters who were pulled from a Gilbert pool without a secondary fence.
"I don’t think there’s any single thing the Town Council can do to stop the drownings . . . but I’d like to do something, no matter how small," Berman said.
"If three people do it, it’s worth it," Councilman Dave Crozier said.
The ordinance also raised the pool permit fee to $250 from $185 to cover the town’s cost of a drowning or neardrowning, Town Attorney Susan Goodwin said.
Town officials said the Gilbert Fire Department spends an average of $3,750 each time it responds to these emergency calls. Since 1993 in Gilbert, there have been 20 drownings — 13 in swimming pools.
"I think this will cause some people to reflect on having a swimming pool fence," Gilbert Fire Chief Collin DeWitt said of the incentive.
Councilman Don Skousen cast one of the two votes against the ordinance.
"I don’t think this will make a bit of difference," said Skousen, who supports secondary fences. "The rebate is not going to change people to put in a barrier if they weren’t going to anyway."
The financial impact will depend on the number of installed secondary fences. The $250 pool permit is expected to generate $450,000 per year, while the $50 fence permit could generate up to $90,000 per year.
Last month, the council agreed to provide a 23-minute water safety video to every future pool owner and approved spending $3,000 to print 50,000 water-safety brochures. The previous council passed an ordinance mandating a secondary fence around pools, but 65 percent of Gilbert voters overturned the ordinance in a November 2001 referendum.