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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Yakima bans sex offenders from pools

     

    Invoking a little-known state law, the Yakima City Council on Tuesday banned dozens of convicted sex offenders from using city pools.

    City officials said they believe the move is a first for a city in Washington, although it remains unclear if the systematic application of the law in a pre-emptive way rather than on a case-by-case basis will draw a civil rights challenge.

    “”This is just one protection that we feel is important,”” said Councilwoman Kathy Coffey, who pushed for the policy change. “”We’re doing what we can to protect the youth of our city.””

    Passed in 2006 by the Legislature, the law allows cities and other “”entities”” such as schools, libraries and day-care centers the right to ban, or trespass, certain sex offenders from pools, parks, playgrounds and any other public or private facility with the primary purpose of educating or caring for children.

    Private schools qualify; home-based instruction does not.

    The ban applies only to Level 2 or Level 3 sex offenders whose crimes involved children. Contrary to public perceptions, many such offenders are not permanently barred from being around children.

    Violating the law is a Class C felony.

    Interim police Chief Greg Copeland told the council there are about 50 sex offenders residing within city limits and another 50 in the Upper Valley who qualify for the ban, meaning their victims were children.

    Copeland said a detective already assigned to track sex offenders would add notifications to his caseload and update the list on a quarterly basis. Process servers will ensure notifications are made in person.

    The new policy came about after city officials in December learned that a high-risk Level 3 sex offender had been swimming at Lions Pool, one of the city’s two remaining municipal pools. The other is Franklin Pool.

    The connection was made after the sex offender attended a budget hearing at City Hall to protest a false rumor that the council was considering the closure of Lions Pool. Then-police Chief Sam Granato recognized the 49-year-old man, who has a history of run-ins with police and who was convicted of attempting to molest an 8-year-old girl in 1996 when she went to his home in search of collectible pogs, a popular fad at the time.

    Although the trespass law has been on the books for nearly five years, to date it does not appear that other communities apart from perhaps a library district in the Vancouver area have applied it systematically.

    The council approved the policy with little comment and did not discuss whether it should be expanded to other sites such as parks and playgrounds.

    In other business Tuesday, the council:

    –Selected a search firm, Colin Baenziger & Associates of Wellington, Fla., to begin identifying and contacting candidates to replace outgoing City Manager Dick Zais.

    The selection was made after the council earlier Tuesday interviewed Colin Baenziger and representatives of two other search firms, better known in corporate parlance as headhunters.

    The contract with Baenziger is for $19,500 and includes expenses. It does not include, however, the eventual cost of flying in candidates for interviews. Zais is retiring in July after 32 years at the city’s helm.

    –Accepted without comment the withdrawal of Selah and Union Gap from the Yakima County Tourism Promotion Area, which promotes tourism and convention business using lodging fees generated by hotels and motels.

    –Appointed council members Micah Cawley, Coffey and Maureen Adkison to a study group that is researching a proposed taxing district that would be created by merging theYakima and Union Gap fire departments.

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