A handful of Auburn residents are losing sleep, and have complained of stress-related illnesses due to a very loud noise that is coming from a grain dryer located directly behind their homes. The noise is so loud, in fact, that one resident has compiled a petition which holds names from people living blocks away who also hear the noise.
“A lady that lives several streets away told me that her little boy heard the noise and thought it was a tornado,” said Lois Nole, who went door to door with her petition. She now has 40 names on it. Mrs. Nole has lived in one of the houses affected for over 60 years. She says she was raised there, but never has there been noise like this coming from the bins. She says it’s not just the noise that has become an issue, but the corn husk dust that is landing all over her house and the area behind the bins. According to Mrs. Nole, she couldn’t even open her windows the dust was so bad, and she is having to have her home pressure washed to get the dust off.
“Everywhere we’ve been to get help, we haven’t gotten any relief,” said Mrs. Nole, who even called Frankfort’s air quality control office to see if there were any help that could be offered there. Unfortunately, Mrs. Nole said she was told it was up to the city and its noise ordinances, if they had any. But Nole and others have brought their plight to the city and have gotten little if any help. The city’s nuisance ordinance is way to vague.
Fifth District Magistrate Jo Orange supports the property owners and says something should be done to help these citizens. However, according to Auburn’s attorney Currie Milliken and Logan County attorney Joe Ross, this is a civil situation not criminal, and therefore neither the city of Auburn nor the county can intervene.
Orange found a Kentucky Revised Statute (KRS) she felt could help the citizens in this situation. It is KRS 224.30 section 050 Noise emission prohibitions which states: No person shall emit beyond the boundaries of his property or from any moving vehicle any noise that unreasonably interferes with the enjoyment of life or with any lawful business or activity in contravention of any rule or regulation adopted by the cabinet.
However, according to Ross there is an exemption in the KRS that makes special previsions for farm machinery and farm equipment, which the grainery falls under.
Ross said he had been contacted by some citizens of Auburn as well about the problem, but, after looking into the state’s ordinance and seeing the exemption, there is nothing the county can do. Ross also looked into Auburn’s zoning of the property the grainery sits on and found it to be zoned industrial, which puts up another wall.
“Our hands are tied,” said Ross.
Auburn Mayor Mike Hughes says he is frustrated with the problem as well, but feels there is nothing legally the city can do.
“I sympathize with the citizens that this is affecting. This is why I’ve been trying to act as an arbitrator in this issue, but the fact is, our city attorney is standing on this issue that this is a civil matter between property owners and the business,” said Hughes. “The way our ordinances are today there is no criminal action I can fight anyone on, therefore I’ve been trying to stay in contact with the owner (Jamie Summers) of the grainery, and the affected property owners to try and help. I’ve tried to encourage Mr. Summers to do everything in his power to do what he can to make the noise less, and he has done so, but I will be the first to acknowledge it is still pretty loud. I will continue to work towards reducing the noise and dust as much as I legally can.”
Mrs. Nole says she appreciates the mayor’s concern and help, but says it’s not fast enough when your living in it.
“This is directly behind my house. I not only get the noise, but the husk all over my house. When the dryer is going you can’t carry a conversation outside, and sleeping is very difficult. It literally sounds like a train coming trough your house,” said Nole. According to Nole the dryer is run during the day and night. She says the majority of time the dryer starts between 8-11 p.m. and runs till 9-10 a.m. the next morning.
“I just feel hopeless. It seems like everybody has sympathy and says they don’t know how we stand it, but so far nothing has been done to show how to help us,” said Nole, commenting on the issue about this being a civil. “It takes money to fight and little people cant fight a big farmer. We are not asking for money, we are just asking for the right to live in our homes peacefully like everyone else does. I feel defeated,” said Mrs. Nole.
Magistrate Orange brought up the issue at Tuesday’s Fiscal Court meeting. She says she has heard the noise herself and it is very loud. She said a decimeter was used to measure the noise. It registered 80 decibels outside and 71 inside the bedroom of one of the houses next to the bin. “The noise,” said Orange, “is similar to sleeping with a vacuum cleaner. Would you like to sleep with a vacuum cleaner?”asked Orange of her fellow magistrates.
Orange was visibly frustrated when hearing there was nothing the county could do legally.
“So we are just going to sit on out hands?” asked Orange of her fellow magistrates. Magistrate Thomas Bouldin asked Orange what her suggestions were for the issue, since she is the one who brought it up. Orange had none.
Magistrate Barry Joe Wright said although he did not know the owner of the grainery in Auburn, he was aware of the situation. He said he was told the owner purchased a $3,000 piece of equipment called a muffler to try and help with the noise, but had only installed it a few days before the season for drying came to an end. Wright said he felt the owner was trying, but has now been put on defensive because he feels nothing is good enough.
“I have a blower right next to my house and I sleep well,” said Wright. Orange told Wright that was his blower on his property and his choice to have it there, unlike the Auburn citizens.
Mayor Hughes said if anyone can think of anything he can do legally to make the situation better to contact him, he is open to suggestions.
“I’m not ignoring this issue,” said mayor Hughes. “It was September when I first heard of it and I immediately contacted the owner of the grainery and the property owners that weekend. We then had a regularly scheduled council meeting three days later, and all involved people were present and the issue was discussed. There were some ideas put forward like putting trucks in front of blowers, and the owner did that that same night, unfortunately it was still noisy. At that time Mr. Summers informed us that he had a silencing devise ordered for his equipment, but it wouldn’t be in until October, which he has since installed. On Oct. 14th we had another meeting where this issue was discussed in depth again, and both parties were there. I will continue to do what I can to help the situation.”
The season is over for drying the corn and for now there is once again silence on the streets of Auburn, and in the homes of those who have been dealing with this issue for the past few months. However, there is always next year, and residents are fearful of when that time will come.
“I’m sorry this is causing any inconvenience for anyone,” said Summers. “But I’ve invested a bunch of money in Auburn and I can’t afford to lose it. I can’t just close the business down. I never expected it to be this loud. I’ve tried every way possible besides shutting down and I just can’t.”
Summers says his livelihood depends on his reputation and he wants to assure people that he didn’t go out there and deliberately try to make people mad. “If anyone has any suggestions on a way to make it better, I’m all ears. But I just can’t afford to shut it down,” Summers said.