ST. PETERSBURG — Tibbetts Lumber Co. had been plundered by thieves so often that the company decided to erect a 10-foot-high electrified fence.
That pretty much ended the wood swiping.
A small problem: City code bans electrified fencing.
So company officials asked the city Thursday to legalize the fence by changing its land development regulations. City planners agreed, and recommended allowing such fences only in industrial zones.
That didn't sit well with council member Wengay Newton.
The lumber company at 330 Fairfield Ave. S is near Gibbs High School. Students walk along sidewalks near the fence, Newton said.
"That's my concern," Newton said.
The electrified fence is behind a regular fence and can't be easily touched, said Cindy Gsell, business development director for Electric Guard Dog, a South Carolina company.
"You could lay down and take a nap (against the noncharged fence)," she said. To be shocked, someone "would have to be intentionally trespassing," she said.
The fence doesn't carry a lethal jolt, she said, calling its charge a "safe, but memorable, shock."
Council member Steve Kornell said that allowing electrified fences near Gibbs High, but not downtown or in other sections of the city, disturbed him.
"Do the kids at Gibbs not count?" Kornell asked.
Council member Charlie Gerdes said he was flabbergasted that the company's effort to save the city money by policing its own property was being slapped down.
"It's frustrating," he said.
After two votes to change the code and allow the fence failed, council member Amy Foster requested the item be sent to a committee for further review.
Tibbetts has been cited for code violations because of the fence, but that case is on hold until the council decides if it wants to change the code, said Derek Kilborn, the city's urban planning and historic preservation manager.
As far as he knows, Tibbetts' is the only privately owned electric fence in the city, although the city itself put an electric fence around a city-owned water facility in Pinellas Park for "homeland defense" reasons.
Charlie Frago can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @CharlieFrago.