Thursday, November 23, 2006

Plumbers art fence

Some people use scarecrows to chase away birds, or garlic to block vampires. Rick Froebe uses toilets to repel golfers. Froebe has erected a backyard "fence" made of seven old toilets, a few used bathtubs and some broken-down water heaters, all designed to prevent golfers from the adjacent Lakeview Golf & Country Club from approaching his yard.

While critics say Froebe is acting out in a dispute with the golf course and other neighbors, the plumber insists his fence is not meant to be offensive.

"It's plumber art," Froebe, 52, said.

Besides, he added, "It's not like this is Pebble Beach. This is Lakeview."

On Monday, three scarecrow-like dummies sat on toilets and looked on as golfers finished their putts on the 354-yard, par-4 first hole. The old commodes, bathtubs and water heaters first appeared on Halloween.

Froebe, co-owner of Coulee Dam/Ephrata Plumbing, used to belong to the golf club, but resigned in May in a dispute with other members.

He said the golfers near his property make his four dogs start barking, which has prompted upset neighbors to call the Grant County sheriff's office. Froebe has lived in the house for 15 years.

Gerald Coulter, representing the country club's nine-member board of directors, called the situation "completely ridiculous."

"I've had several people call that were upset with (the 'fence'). It's an eyesore," Coulter said. "I'm surprised the health department hasn't been out there because of the used toilets and water tanks. It's not a sanitary condition."

Meanwhile, the sheriff's office has warned Froebe three times that his dogs are a nuisance, said Larry Ledeboer, the sheriff's animal control officer.

"The sheriff's office doesn't write a lot of barking infractions," Ledeboer said. "We give warnings and try to work with people."

To date, Froebe has received three barking infractions. A first-offense barking infraction is $47 per dog, Ledeboer said. The second offense is $95. A third offense is $190.

Froebe said he recently bought special dog collars that discourage barking.

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