Archive for Wednesday, October 18, 2000

City puts muffler on noise

October 18, 2000

The Baldwin City Council approved a noise ordinance Monday night following months of discussing the issue.

Police Chief Steve Butell said the ordinance covers about everything, including car stereos, lawn mowers and parties.

However, one citizen was disappointed that the ordinance will have no affect on a noise she considers a nuisance train whistles at the Midland Railway.

Shirley Wagner, who lives and attends church near Midland Railway, said train whistles often interrupt Sunday church service at Ives Chapel Methodist Church.

"You think they would have the decency not to do that," Wagner said.

City Administrator Larry Paine said a train whistle is considered an "emergency signal" and is exempt from the ordinance. It is also state law that a train engine sound its whistle before moving and at crossings.

"They can't move the engine without blowing the whistle," Paine said. "State law says that."

Paine said he recently talked with a representative from the federal railroad administration and learned about a federal law in the works that would allow local governments to establish a "quiet zone" banning train whistles for a minimum distance of 400 yards. However, crossing arms and lights would be required in the quiet zone. Paine estimates three crossings would require the $250,000 equipment.

"There is not much we can do without having to spend some money," Paine said. "It is not cheap."

The council decided it was a better option to write a letter to the Midland Railway suggesting they start Sunday rides at noon, instead of 11:30.

Mayor Stan Krysztof wasn't convinced that would help.

"The 11:30 train is not the problem," said Krysztof, who also lives near Midland Railway. "It's the 7:30 a.m. tooting of the horn to get ready for the 11:30 train that is the problem."

The ordinance does cover ...

Other noises such as car stereos, parties and lawn equipment are covered by the ordinance.

"This ordinance covers everything from vehicles driving down the street with the music turned up, neighbors with the music too loud, block parties, fraternity parties, sorority parties," said Butell. "It even goes so far to say lawnmowers can't be run after 9 o'clock at night."

Paine said it is not the intent of the noise ordinance to hunt down noise, but to respond to noise on a complaint system.

"It is going to be a complaint driven system," Paine said. "The bottom line is the ordinance is supposed to give the officer the ability to say 'I can write a citation, but we have some room to work. Can you tone the noise down?'

"It is written with the objective that we can work with people, but if they don't want to work with us, we can use the citation process."

A person who is issued a citation can be subject to a fine up to $500. The city has purchased a sound level meter, and violation of the noise ordinance has been set at: 60 decibels in residential areas; 65 decibels in business areas and 70 decibels in industrial areas.

The noise ordinance was drafted after a citizen complained about the loud music coming from what used to be Goodtimes, a bar and grill on U.S. Highway 56. City officials reviewed noise ordinances from other cities before drafting a local ordinance. They decided evidence from a sound meter would stand up better in court, than a personal opinion of a citizen and the police officer on duty.

Waivers of the ordinance can be applied for. Organizers of parties and other social gatherings that anticipate exceeding the noise levels, are asked to contact all neighbors within 400 feet.

There are some automatic exceptions to the ordinance.

"There are things like football games that are automatically waived," Paine said. "That noise is going to be within an acceptable time frame. You expect to hear those sort of things."

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