Council postpones noise ordinance again

Published 1:43 pm Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The revised noise ordinance, which was discussed at the last council meeting, was brought before the council again Tuesday only to be tabled again.

Council member Leavern Guy expressed concern that the noise ordinance could possibly be abused by law enforcement. He also wanted to make sure what was in the new ordinance and what was changed.

Police Chief Jim Luke said the new ordinance is actually a revised ordinance based on the old one. It now resembles the noise ordinance currently in effect in the city of Gulfport, with the exception of language pertaining to motor boats.

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Council member Donald Parker wanted to see if there is a way to inject public service as a form of punishment for those cited and convicted of a violation of the ordinance. City Attorney Nathan Farmer said that when it does come before the council for approval, they can opt to include public service as a form of punishment.

Luke said the proposed ordinance features a graduated scale of punishment.

“I understand the need for it, but we do have one on the books right now,” Guy said. “We just don’t want to get to a point where it will be abused. I say that in a delicate way to the department.”

Council member Anna Turnage said she understands what Guy is trying to say, but the council asked for a revised version of the noise ordinance and in order to properly enforce it, examples need to be made. She said while there may be complaints of abuse, she thinks more than a slap on the wrist needs to be done about the problem. Recently Turnage said she was awakened at 2 a.m. by a loud boom box down her road.

Watkins pointed out that since punishments for violations of the ordinance start out light, complaints should be minor.

Luke said the top complaints to law enforcement in America consist of loud music and speeding.

Guy made a motion to table the matter until the next meeting so he can review it. Mayor Greg Mitchell asked the council to be ready to vote on the matter at the next meeting.

Another ordinance also was discussed concerning trains switching tracks and holding up traffic. Apparently the situation causes complaints at the train crossing on Bruce Street where trainsy cause traffic to be blocked for up to 15 minutes, usually during lunch, Guy said. He said he thought he read a section of the city ordinance that stated that train tracks were not to be blocked for more than five minutes.

Farmer said there is a language in the ordinance that states that it is unlawful for a train to obstruct traffic for more than five minutes unless that train is moving through town, and that excludes track switching. According to Farmer’s reading, unless the train is traveling at a steady pace through town, or waiting for another train to pass, then streets that intersect with that track should not be blocked more than five minutes.

Council member Donald Parker suggested the council hold a meeting with those responsible for trains blocking streets and alert them about the ordinance.

Guy suggested that the police department could, after having a discussion with those responsible, begin issuing citations for further violations.

Interim City Manager Harvey Miller said he will give those responsible for the trains obstructing the intersections a copy of the ordinance and guidelines.

Turnage also asked about the status of drainage cleanup in the Woodglen Cove area. At a previous meeting, Grant Administrator Barbara McGrew presented information on a grant that could, if approved, fund that work. She said currently the city has not been approved for the grant, worth about $3.3 million.

The city is currently paid up with the Utility Authority, up to August. City accountant Amber Hinton said the city only still owes the authority for the month of September.

Citizens who have not put out debris left in their yards from Hurricane Gustav need to do that soon. Public Works Director Chad Frierson said the city already has made its first pass through the city to pick up debris and only one more pass is left.

The council went into executive session to discuss contractual matters with EPA, industrial park, train depot, bond issues, Pearl River County, SPCA, possible lease of property and any personnel matters. Decisions on those matters were not available at press time Tuesday night.

In other business the council;

— Tabled the appointment of a planning commissioner to replace Terrell Jopes and the appointment of a planning commissioner chair.

— Approved a bid proposal from Huey Stockstill Inc. of $411,568.90 to construct the access road to the new fire station.