Initiatives intended to bring life-saving devices and public awareness to the dangers of drowning in Lake Michigan will come before the City Council tonight.
Among them will be a resolution authorizing the city to install three life ring buoys on Kenosha Harbor’s north pier, a life ring set on the south wall of the harbor and another near the mouth of the Pike River which feeds into the lake near the band shell at Pennoyer Park.
The devices are expected to be stored in a cabinet, or kiosk, and will include attached ropes. The devices will be accessible to the the public in the event of an emergency.
Another resolution aims to educate middle and high school students about water safety. It calls for presentations led by the U.S. Coast Guard in partnership with Kenosha police and fire departments, the Great Lakes Surf Rescue Project and the Kenosha Unified School District. The month of May would also be declared as “Lake Michigan Safety Awareness Month.”
Both are coming before the council tonight after at least three drownings over the last four months, including Donovan Anderson, 17, of Kenosha, who died after jumping into the lake at the pier with friends on Sept. 6. His body was recovered less than two weeks later.
In addition, two ordinances related to water safety have been proposed, with fines of up to $1,000 apiece and up to 90 days in jail.
The first addresses punishment for anyone who takes, destroys, defaces or damages a life ring or kiosk, thereby rendering the safety device unavailable in an emergency.
The second punishes those who violate the posted “No Swimming” areas. That includes anyone entering or remaining “in the water within 50 feet” of a pier, jetty, breakwater or seawall, or within 150 feet of the mouth of the Pike River.
The resolutions and ordinances have been approved by the Parks Commission and the Public Safety and Welfare Committee. Recommendations from the Finance Committee are expected tonight prior to the council meeting.
Alderman and Finance Committee Chairman Dan Prozanski said the two resolutions are expected to come before a vote before the council. However, the ordinances will be introduced during first readings and are expected to be discussed and voted on by council at its Oct. 15 meeting.
Prozanski, who proposed fines associated with swimming restrictions, and Alderman David Bogdala’s proposal, which also calls for fines and jail time in dealing with those who tamper with the life-saving devices, said the ordinances are there to send a message.
“Definitely to dissuade them from diving into the lake and from messing with those kiosks,” Prozanski said. “Those fines are definitely hefty, but for a very good reason.”
Once the council has acted, Prozanski said most of the devices are expected to be in place by the end of the month. Those on the north pier may be delayed as the city works with the Army Corps of Engineers and the federal government regarding their placement.
Alderman Rocco LaMacchia, chairman of the city’s Public Safety and Welfare, who co-sponsored the resolutions and ordinances, said that something needs to be done to enable life-saving measures to take place immediately, as well as, education about the dangerous conditions at the city’s harbor and at the Pike Creek.
“We’re dead serious about this, without a doubt,” LaMacchia said.
“I’ve been an alderman for 10 years now, and it’s unfortunate that a lot of young people have drowned and but now we need to do something, if anything, if even one buoy would save a life,” he said. “Is there ever enough? Maybe (we need) them at Southport or Simmons Island, but so far, those are the dangerous spots right now.”