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In These Otsego Hills

July 5, 2012

In These Otsego Hills: How’s that again?

 There are times when information that comes across our desk is fairly straight-forward, being backed up by what appears to be solid facts. An example of this would be the next meeting of the Literary Discussion Group, sponsored by the Women’s Club of Cooperstown.

We have known since last November that the next meeting will be held at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, July 26, and that the book for discussion will be “Look Again” by Lisa Scottoline and that the discussion will be lead by Mary Leary. We can now add that the meeting will be held in the Parish Center behind St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on Elm Street here in Cooperstown. The meeting is open to anyone interested in the book to be discussed. However, other information we encounter does not always seem to be so straightforward.

For example, we are puzzled by the information being put forth as a reason to silence Cooperstown’s “Noon Whistle,” which actually has not been a whistle since an electric fire siren was first installed in 1929 to replace the use of the International Creamery’s steam whistle which we understand could be heard as far away as Westford. Even before moving here 30 years ago, it was our understanding that the fire siren blew at noon to test it to make certain it was working.

Until now, it never occurred to us that it was a noise problem as we felt the need to test the siren far outweighed whatever noise pollution anyone might perceive it presented. However, if we understand this correctly, the fire siren has  now been deemed to be inviolation of OSHA’s Occupational Noise Exposure regulations.

At least we assume that is what is being violated and so, since we know little about OSHA regulations, we decided to go online and actually see what the regulations might be.

On the OHSA website we learned that “OSHA sets legal limits on noise exposure in the workplace. These limits are based on a worker’s time weighted average over an eight hour day. With noise, OSHA’s permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 90 dBA for all workers for an eight hour day.

The OSHA standard uses a five dBA exchange rate. This means that when the noise level is increased by five dBA, the amount of time a person can be exposed to a certain noise level to receive the same dose is cut in half.”

Thus, if the level of the fire siren has been deemed to be between 109 and 117 dBAs, as indicated in the article from last week’s paper about the silencing of the noon whistle, it would seem that on the low end of the level, OSHA would allow up to 30 minutes of exposure while at the high end, seven-and-a-half minutes of exposure would be allowed. Of course, we readily admit we are certainly not an authority on OSHA regulations, so if there is some other way to interpret the information on its website, we would certainly like to be informed.

However, at this point, our reaction is that if the board of trustees wants to silence the fire siren, a simple explanation that in this day and age it is no longer necessary to test the fire siren on a daily basis would have been a stronger argument than hiding behind some mysterious cloak of OSHA regulations.

We also are mystified as to why, with the elimination of the noon whistle, the members of the village board of trustees feel the need to replace it with something else, like ringing church bells, to alert villagers that it is noon. Of course, we realize that when the noon whistle stopped whistling, there were people who missed lunch or weeded too long in their gardens.

But surely, suggesting these people invest in watches would be easier than expecting the churches to ring their bells, most especially the village’s two oldest churches which still ring their bells by hand.

Of course, we are well aware that there are those in the village that feel the fire siren is very detrimental to their being. In fact, last week we were discussing the silencing of the noon whistle while breakfasting with friends at a local eatery. We were discussing the history of the noon whistle and how so many of us have heard it for years and in many ways, have found it to be a comforting reminder that all is well in the village. In fact, we generally felt we would miss it.

And while we were quite enjoying the conversation, it became instantly obvious that another patron of the restaurant was not when he jumped up from his seat, stalked up to our table and began ranting about what an intrusion the fire siren is on his life. In fact, it seems that it has so ruined his life that he is moving, which we were tacky enough to suggest, under the circumstances, was probably a good thing as we could not imagine staying anywhere that affected our life so negatively.

To say that we were somewhat taken aback by the verbal assault is probably an understatement. And while we are not unaccustomed to such attacks, we felt our dining companions were. Therefore, we were relieved when this gentleman left as abruptly as he came.

What we did not instantly realize was that he not only left our table, but also left the restaurant without, as it turned out, even getting the breakfast he had ordered. And while we offered to pay his bill, we were assured that he had left enough to cover what he had gotten.

And while we would support this gentleman’s right to his opinion, we would like to point out that those of us who are going to miss the noon whistle also have the right to lament our loss as well as the right to think this is yet another tear in the fabric of our community.

PLEASE NOTE: Comments regarding this column may be made by mail at 105 Pioneer Street, Cooperstown, NY 13326, by telephone at 547-8124 or by email at cellsworth1@stny.rr.com

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In These Otsego Hills
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