The city of Kenosha will, weather permitting, install a life preserver ring kiosk near the east end of the Kenosha Harbor south pier by the end of the week.
Monday night the City Council approved, with no objections, a resolution by Mayor John Antaramian authorizing placement of one cabinet containing a throw ring and attached rescue rope at that location.
As written, the resolution authorizes two additional life ring kiosks, one near the east end of the north pier in close proximity to where a Sept. 6 drowning occurred, and the other on the south side of the Pike River outlet into Lake Michigan in Pennoyer Park.
An amendment offered by Alderman Keith Rosenberg, and approved by the council, adds a second kiosk on the north side of the Pike River mouth.
In addition to the Sept. 6 drowning of a 17-year-old high school student, who jumped off the north pier, Antaramian’s resolution cited an August 2017 drowning off the north pier of an 18-year-old man, as well as the separate drownings of two 28-year-old adults near the Pike outlet earlier this year, one in May, the other in July.
In tandem with approving the mayor’s resolution, aldermen also supported without objection Alderman Dan Prozanski’s resolution declaring May “Lake Michigan Safety Awareness Month.”
The declaration requests the U.S. Coast Guard to make safety presentations to students in Kenosha middle and high schools in cooperation with the Kenosha police and fire departments, the Kenosha YMCA and the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project.
Jim Zondlak, of the Kenosha Sportfishing and Conservation Association, which has been trying to donate a life ring kiosk to the city since purchasing one in 2013, was on hand at Monday’s council meeting to thank the city for at last accepting the donated kiosk.
He thanked aldermen for working with the KSFCA the past five years in the effort to place a kiosk on the north pier. Others have now come forward offering to pay for additional kiosks for placement at that location, a popular but treacherous site for so-called “pier jumping.”
In addition, Zondlak thanked aldermen Prozanski and David Bogdala for related ordinances that got the first of two required readings Monday night.
Bogdala’s would make it an offense to vandalize, destroy, steal or otherwise render unusable the life rings or kiosks. Prozanski’s would make it an offense to enter the water where warnings against swimming and diving are posted. Both would impose fines of up to $1,000 or a maximum 90 days in jail for violations.
In addressing the council, Cindy Altergott, executive director of the Kenosha YMCA, thanked the city for committing to publicly accessible life rings.
‘We need a cultural change’
“Next, we need a cultural change,” Altergott said, agreeing with plans for educating youths about the risks of jumping into Lake Michigan where and when it isn’t safe to do so.
“It’s going to take the whole community working together,” Altergott said. “The Y is here to help. … We vow to share this message with as many people as we can.”
She urged anyone wanting to participate to attend monthly meetings at the Y on water safety issues.
Zondlak told aldermen he has been in contact with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and “they’re in full support” of participating in promoting water safety here.
Prozanski said since the drownings this summer, particularly in the aftermath of Donovan Anderson’s death on Sept. 6, there has been “an outpouring of community support on this.”
First kiosk going up
Co-City Administrator Ed St. Peter told Bogdala the first kiosk will be in place on the south pier of the harbor by Friday, weather permitting.
Bogdala thanked Zondlak for bringing the matter to his attention when the two chanced to meet five years ago and Zondlak pitched the kiosk donation. Bogdala also thanked other private citizens, including a woman from Illinois who witnessed the Sept. 6 drowning, for coming forward to offer donations to equip the city with life rings or other water rescue devices.
He expressed appreciation to aldermen Rocco LaMacchia and Mitchell Pedersen for joining him in meetings with city administration to bring about Monday’s resolution authorizing life rings at the lakefront.
“We said we’re not going to accept, ‘No,’ or any reasons why this can’t be done. … Is it as fast as I would have wanted? No, it isn’t,” Bogdala added.
He said there is no 100 percent solution to preventing behavior that puts people at risk in the water. But, Bogdala said, “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be moving forward.”
He noted the City Attorney’s Office still is working on a needed agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before the city may install life ring kiosks on the north pier.