Ad hoc committee to tackle NTC noise issue
An ad hoc committee will be formed in response to continued complaints of noise from the NTC Public Safety Center of Excellence on Champagne Street, Merrill Mayor Bill Bialecki announced last Tuesday.
Bialecki had introduced a resolution to the Common Council affirming the city’s support of NTC and the pubilc safety training facility in Merrill. However, the discussion quickly turned to the noise generated by emergency vehicle sirens at the campus.
Council President John Burgener, who lives near the campus, said he couldn’t vote for the resolution. He said he has received 60 calls from people in his distrct complaining about the noise.
Alderman Pete Lokemoen said discussions are ongoing to come to an amicable solution, and the mayor’s resolution was unnecessary.
“I think all residents are supportive of the college, we just want to resolve an issue,” he said.
“The only thing I don’t support is the ongoing disruption and noise,” Burgener said. “I don’t see how any alderman would vote for this… if they put the training center in your district.”
The resolution did pass, with Burgener and Alderman Chris Malm voting no.
After the vote, Alderman Dave Sukow said, “This is not a dead issue. I do affirm support of NTC, but we do have a problem and we need to solve it.”
During pubilc comment, Bialecki said an ad hoc committee with representation from both sides would be formed.
NTC Board Chairman Paul Proulx said NTC has followed through with its commitments to the city. In response to noise complaints, NTC completed a sound study in December 2013. The study showed that the facility is operating within the guidelines of Merrill’s city ordinance dealing with loud and unnecessary noise.
The study did not recommend construction of a sound wall around the center because a wall would not effectively reduce the spikes in noise levels to benefit neighboring residents. However, NTC has and will be making efforts to curtail noise from the facility.
NTC has already adjusted training hours to 7 a.m. -9 p.m., which are the hours outlined in the city’s noise ordinance policy.
NTC has also made modifications to the sirens on its emergency vehicle fleet to reduce noise levels.
NTC will be planting trees around the perimeter of the center to create a visual and sound barrier.
“There are over 500 trees waiting at the nursery and will be planted as soon as the ground dries out,” Proulx said.
Past Council President Steve Hass pointed out that the facility brings in fire, police and EMS personnel from all over the state to train.
“The city of Merrill should consider themselves lucky to have this facility,” he said. “The NTC facility is probably the best thing that ever happened in Merrill. I’m proud to say I did everything I could to support NTC.”
Lincoln County Economic Development Director Susan Ryman said that, so far this year, the facility has generated over $100,000 in economic impact for the community.
“If they decide not to do business in Lincoln County, we have a huge problem,” she said.
Merrill Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Debbe Kinsey said the NTC campus is a vital part of the the community’s continued economic success.
“With state and federal agencies coming to Merrill in the future, what a great way to put Merrill on the map,” she said. “NTC’s success with the Public Safety Center benefits all of us.”
Garth Swanson, who represents that area on the Lincoln County Board, said he agrees with the benefits of the campus, but the phone calls he’s received from constituents proves that a problem exists.
“I wish NTC all the best in the world, but I also want them to mute the noise when they can.”
Nearby resident Bill Fehrman said he’s hopeful that an ad hoc committee can solve the issue.
“We need this committee and we need the facts,” he said. “We need more than trees, we need to start working together on this thing.”