Some progress is being made in the community debate concerning noise from the Parker County Ice House when the facility hosts large outdoor concerts according to a report from Christopher “Topper” Sowden from Sowden and Associates, Consultants in Acoustics and Entertainment Technologies.
Sowden reported to the Willow Park City Council at its meeting on Oct. 25.
Sowden also offered some suggestions as to how to further help with the issue.
Ice House management and city officials have been in discussions about how to deal with the noise emitting from their concerts, particularly late into the evening. Several complaints have been made by residents nearby.
The Ice House hosted another such concert on Oct. 1 with GNRX, a Guns ‘N’ Roses tribute band. Sowden was on hand to assess the noise situation, doing so from a dozen different locations in the area of prior complaints. His report was that there was no consistent significant noise violation per the city’s noise ordinance.
The city’s ordinance states that noise violations must exceed 60 seconds and Sowden said there were few instances where the noise rose above the city’s limit and never for more than 60 seconds.
“No band will play at the same level for 60 seconds, I was expecting Guns ‘N’ Roses to,” Sowden said with a chuckle.
The city’s ordinance has a maximum of 85 dBA (decibels) at the property line. At its maximum, the sound from the concert reached 89 dBA, Sowden said.
Sound is measured in decibels. A whisper is about 30 dBA, normal conversation is about 60 dBA, and a motorcycle engine running is about 95 dBA. Noise above 70 dBA over a prolonged period of time may start to damage your hearing.
Ice House officials had previously promised to turn off upper speakers in an effort to help alleviate the noise and Sowden said they had kept their promise. He also said at the Oct. 1 concert he did not see any outside additional sound equipment brought in, as some bands will do for shows.
Willow Park Police Chief Carrie West said there were no complaints from residents about the Oct. 1 concert.
Here is Sowden’s report from each location:
Sowden also offered some recommendations to help even more.
1. Modify program schedules to limit programs using the stage sound system after 9 p.m. to avoid the 70 dBA limit after this time.
2. Provide modifications to the existing sound system to limit system output levels to comply with the Ordinance.
3. Modify the fence construction of the north audience fence facing Willow Crossing Drive East extending approximately 78 feet. Increase the height of this fence to 12 feet. The new fence construction should be made to restrict airflow through the fence. We further recommend similar fence construction directly behind the stage although complaints have not been received south of the facility at this time.
“It wasn’t stated how the fence would be constructed. They’re staggered boards and the fence is leaky,” Sowden said of the existing fence.
4. Install a large sound level display on the north fence facing the stage. This monitor should be of a size sufficient to allow observation of the sound by the operations staff and the performers to manage performance sound levels. Provide management and operation of the facility to comply with the Ordinance outside the facility.
“This is a $150 piece you can buy at Amazon,” Sowden said.
5. Provide and install a pole mounted permanent noise monitor system with AC power provision adjacent to the north fence. Monitor levels should be available through SIMM card exchange on a monthly basis and 4G cellular communications allowing PC observation of the levels by the police and City. The SIMM cards should be harvested monthly allowing permanent documentation of sound levels originating from the facility during each month.
Assistant City Manager Bill Funderburk said a 12-foot fence exceeds the city’s ordinance concerning fencing, so in order to make this happen the board of adjustments would have to get involved for allowance.
As for who would pay for any adjustments, Soward said, “My recommendation is for the city to pursue the Ice House (for reimbursement).”
Funderburk said, “We’re going to look at our ordinance, these recommendations and probably meet with the Ice House.”
The penalty for each noise ordinance violation is $500. Multiple citations can also be issued, but Funderburk said that is not what he or the city wants.
“If I pull you over for speeding and you pull off afterwards speeding again I can ticket you again,” he said. “But we don’t want that. We want to work with them, and it appears they’re working with us, so I feel confident this will work out to everyone’s benefit.”
The council approved the creation of the position of city engineer. For the past few months city staff has been contemplating the need to hire an in-house engineer to supplement the work currently contracted out to Jacob and Martin. This position will assist in nearly all levels of both the development department and public works.
Duties will include - but are not limited to - plan reviews, input on development projects, consulting with the public works director to improve the water and sewer systems, streets, drainage, and other infrastructure needs as required.
“We feel like it has come to a point where there is a need,” Funderburk said. “With the work and the possibility of work, we feel there is enough for several years.”
One of the key reasons for the position, Funderburk added, is the need to immediately deal with public questions and comments.
“You have somebody out in the foyer (of city hall), they need to know,” he said.
The position will have a salary not to exceed $97,500 along with full benefits. Funding will come from public works and the general funds; however, Funderburk said expectations are for the cost to be neutral as the development costs (e.g. plan reviews, etc.) being assessed by Jacob and Martin will partially supplement the salary.
City officials stress this position is not intended to, nor will it replace, the work being done by Jacob and Martin. Rather, it will supplement, assist, and expedite projects throughout the city.
There is no deadline to hire, Funderburk said.
The council voted to deny a rate increase for Oncor. The company had requested an increase from the city of 11.2% in residential rates and a 1.6% increase in street lighting rates, which would have increased the cost for a residential customer using 1,300 kWh per month of about $6.02.
The city previously suspended the June 17 effective date of the company's rate increase for the maximum period permitted by law to allow the city, working in conjunction with the steering committee of cities served by Oncor, to evaluate the filing, determine whether the filing complies with law, and if lawful, to determine what further strategy, including settlement, to pursue. This time period permitted the city, through its participation with the steering committee, to determine that the proposed rate increase is unreasonable.
City Manager Bryan Grimes said the decision was a formality and that several other cities will likely take the same action. He added the dispute could end up going to the Public Utilities Commission.
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