HANCEVILLE — Some Hanceville residents who live near the city’s civic center say the noise that’s been emanating on Saturdays from private parties held there has gotten to be more than they can handle.
So on Thursday evening, they showed up at Hanceville’s city council meeting to make some noise of their own.
“We just want them to turn it down. It’s the bass, and it’s continuous,” said Amanda Baker, who lives with her husband, three children, and one dog at the intersection of Dean Avenue and Commercial Street — one of the homes closest to the site.
Amanda has circulated a petition among residents who want the city to make changes, and submitted more than 50 signatures to the city council Thursday evening.
“I know it sounds extreme, but I really do start having anxiety on Friday nights, because I know it’s coming. Earlier this year, I finally approached the city council about it after it went on for five Saturdays in a row,” she said, adding that she’s not been pleased with city leaders’ response.
“We feel like we’re just being told enough to keep us quiet, and then we’re pushed away. We don’t care who’s in the civic center having their party; we just want the noise, and especially the bass, to be turned down. There’s got to be some kind of middle ground.”
Thanks to more than $60,000 in COVID-19 relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act, the city has plans to make improvements at the center, which the city uses as an emergency relief station. Among other things, those include the installation of double-paned windows to replace single-pane units first installed in the 1950s, according to mayor Kenneth Nail.
But the city already has beefed up the center’s insulation to improve utility costs and mitigate the noise — a measure that the Bakers, as well as fellow Dean Avenue resident Randy Moore, say hasn’t done much to help.
“I’m seven houses down, and I can still hear it,” said Moore. “I live here and I pay taxes here 365 days a year. Well, I’m not sure that the people who are renting this place out live in Hanceville…But I don’t care who it is who rents the place — I just want it turned down.”
Thanks to ongoing and incremental renovations, the civic center has become increasingly attractive as an event destination in recent years. In 2019, before the pandemic struck, the city took in $17,790 in rental fees — though city leaders are quick to note that much of that money goes right back into the center’s upkeep costs: insurance, utilities, maintenance and other incidental expenses. In 2020, with the pandemic dampening enthusiasm for large gatherings, the center saw a more modest $14,750 in rental fees.
Many of the center’s recent private parties on Saturdays have been events that serve alcohol. As part of the rental terms, that add-on comes with a $600 rental fee (rather than the standard $450), as well as a refundable $800 cleaning and security deposit (rather than the standard $500). It also requires the renters to pay $30 for a Hanceville police patrol for every hour that the event is scheduled.
Having law enforcement intervene to curb the noise, especially for paying renters who aren’t violating the law, is a subjective call; one that police chief Bob Long said is tough to make. At the Bakers’ invitation, Long has even stood in the family’s driveway with a decibel sound meter to measure the noise output — but he’s disagreed with the Bakers on whether the events have crossed the noise threshold that would prompt law enforcement to step in.
Nail hopes residents in the area will be patient as the city continues to upgrade the civic center. The idea, he said, is to strike a balance between giving renters what they’re paying for and keeping the neighborhood peaceable.
“The council is concerned about it, and we do want to be a good neighbor,” he said. “We are going to put in some double doors in the entryway, so that when the outside doors are open to the vestibule area, at least one set of double doors will still be closed. We’re also installing double-paned storm windows that will additionally minimize the noise that escapes.
“It’s not something we can do overnight, but it’s budgeted and it’s coming. We’re hopeful that residents in the area can be patient with us while we make those changes.”