Stacy Councilor Cindy Bruss returned to her elected seat April 8 after a lengthy absence. Bruss was welcomed back by her colleagues and city employees with a round of applause.
Shortly after retaking her seat, she and the rest of the council were presented with an issue that has been before the council at numerous previous meetings.
Stacy resident Teri Kaslow told the council, “Royal Concrete is out of hibernation.”
Kaslow submitted the last of her 22 complaints regarding noise levels coming from Royal Concrete on Oct. 19, 2013. Within the past seven days prior to the April 8 meeting, she submitted four more complaints. Kaslow described “loud banging noises” and “buzzing noise” awakening her, her family and her neighbors routinely between 2 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. It was reported that since the weather has taken a turn for the better, Royal Concrete employees have taken to leaving the facility doors open.
Kaslow mentioned that she followed up in email with Stacy mayor Mark Utecht. Utecht addressed the constituents who attended this council meeting looking for a response; based on the readings that were taken in the fall, “the city will not be pursuing any action against Royal Concrete.”
In November 2013, the mayor had authorized purchase of a sound meter. Utecht and city staff had taken a number of readings prior to Royal Concrete ceasing some operations for the winter, and the results were that none of those readings violated city noise level ordinance.
“What does it take to reopen this investigation?” Kaslow asked. The mayor stated the council would discuss the issue, but not during the public comment period. Utecht said that if Kaslow chose not to stay until the end of this meeting, he would call her to discuss the issue further.
Kaslow responded that she would be going home to sleep before the noise commences again and so she is able to function at her job. Her comments were followed by those of her spouse, Greg Kaslow. He requested that City Clerk Sharon Payne provide him with a copy of the original conditional use permit for his review. He said he was interested in noting the hours of operation that were approved in the permit.
Neighbor Sandy Witkowski followed the Kaslows to the podium. “We complain about this every year and nothing gets done,” Witkowski said.
She said the noise goes on “all night long and seven days a week, practically.”
“We really would like the city to start taking this seriously. We’ve been hearing it (loud noise) with our windows shut,” Witkowski said. She urged the council to consider changing the business’ conditional use permit, if necessary. Witkowski was angry that a freeway barrier was constructed to abate the noise level in the development that she lives in, but that it seems to her that no action can be taken with noise from Royal Concrete.
Council Member Chuck Lucia began to respond, but Utecht requested he reserve his comments for discussion later in the meeting.
When the agenda had been covered, the council returned to the subject.
The council members observed the business does generate significantly lower noise levels from fall to spring. Utecht agreed the noise is much louder when Royal Concrete employees continue operations with the doors open. Utecht described the process the business uses that seems to be the greatest source of annoyance — moving concrete objects. He said Royal Concrete owners intend to spend nearly $1 million this summer to replace old forklifts with newer, quieter, more efficient models.
He said if what is deemed to be an excessive noise level doesn’t exceed 10 percent of total hours of operation, Royal Concrete is not in violation of city noise ordinances. He also said that Royal Concrete is not stealthily creating noise only when they think they are not being monitored. The mayor described his surveillance as “sitting in someone’s yard with a microphone on a stand” in full view of Royal Concrete employees and management.
Utecht said the complaints are coming in between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m., and that the process of molding the concrete requires that they operate at all hours.
“If they are not meeting the rules, it is our job to tell them,” Utecht said. He proposed sending City Maintenance Supervisor Tanner Jones to take some additional readings and graph times of peak noise levels.
Council Member Jim Ness considered the residents’ comments and the mayor’s information and suggested readings be taken again and the permit be reviewed.
The mayor agreed but added, “If we find that Royal is in violation of any of the rules, I am telling Royal to fix it; we are not taking it to court.”
Lucia, sympathetic to the residents’ complaints, said the reality is that Royal Concrete will not be quiet 24 hours a day, seven days a week.