BY JIM AUSTIN
THE COOPERSTOWN CRIER
Noon came and went Tuesday without its passage being marked by the traditional blast of the village’s two sirens. The night before, the board of trustees voted to pull the plug on the midday whistle and restrict the use of the sirens to announcing an emergency situation.
Trustee Dr. Walter Franck had been asked in April by Mayor Jeff Katz to research the sound of the noon whistle, particularly from an environmental point of view. In May, Franck did not attend the board meeting, but provided the trustees with the results of his investigation. All four measurements were within 109 to 117 dBA a measure of permissible exposure limit.
Franck said the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration would deem the noise level produced by the sirens to be “not permissible,” he wrote in an email. “These data convince me that the use of the whistle, at current levels of loudness, is environmentally hazardous for our citizens,” his email stated.
Monday night, Franck brought up the siren and made a motion to halt its use except for emergency purposes.
People near the sirens are being exposed a noise level that Franck described as “toxic and damaging to their hearing.” He said he believes it would not be responsible to continue to use the siren for anything, but emergencies. To use something that can harm people to carry on a tradition would be wrong, he said.
“I think there are other ways to mark the noon hour,” Trustee Ellen Tillapaugh said.
Trustee Frank Capozza, a member of the fire committee, said he hadn’t met anyone who complained about the noon whistle.
“I’ve heard a lot of people complain about it,” Franck replied. “It’s not a safe sound.”
Franck said he is not trying to abolish tradition and the village could seek some sort of middle ground, but if there is none it should be shut off.
Department of Public Works Superintendent Brian Clancy said the siren is old and there is no way to turn down the sound to a less intrusive level.
The board split 4 to 3 while approving Franck’s motion.
Mayor Jeff Katz said he will contact churches in the village about the possibility of ringing bells at noon.