Puslinch councillors would like a final answer to the ongoing concern of local residents about noise generated at the Optimist Recreation Centre.
In early December, the topic came up as a notice of motion and on Dec. 17 councillors sought a more permanent answer to either lay the issue to rest or address the excess noise.
First, councillors will need to find out whether the noise generated by various pieces of machinery is within MOE standards.
Initially brought forth by councillor Wayne Stokley, the resolution states that in mid-January, council received correspondence from Gamsby and Mannerow regarding a sound levels assessment at the Puslinch Optimist Recreation Centre (ORC) after an investigation into sound levels from the ORC to neighbouring properties fronting along Maple Leaf Lane.
The results of that investigation determined the new ice rink compressor was operating at a lower sound level than the original compressor, as measured on Dec. 30, 2013, and the new compressor’s measured average sound level readings are below the MOE guideline for a “Class 2 area”.
Further, March 5 sound level measurements while the compressor was active suggested the sound was only marginally higher than the background sound level measurement and is therefore not considered a significant contributor to the background sound levels.
However Stokley said that since concerns have arisen once more, he asked council to consider requesting staff to include $3,000 in the 2015 operating budget for the purpose of conducting an additional sound level assessment to compare against the results obtained in March 2014.
Stokley explained it was drawn to his attention that the sound has been an issue since the pad was constructed.
He noted there were changes to the compressors, “but residents still see it as a problem.”
Stokley said one of the major issues is the proximity of the compressor fans to the road facing the residential properties. He realized the township had undertaken previous tests which stated the sound was below MOE guidelines.
“But it still seems to be a problem and there has been at least one issue where the alarms went off – seeming to compound the problem.”
Stokley asked that council once more have the noise level tested.
Originally the resolution requested council include $40,000 in its 2015 budget in the event that further sound abatement measures were needed.
After council further discussed the item that part of the resolution was dropped.
Councillor Matthew Bulmer said the concern was something council needed to take seriously, but at the same time, he took issue with allocating $40,000 without determining the nature of what might be happening.
He noted various noise abatement measures were taken in the past.
Bulmer said he was also concerned that some of the testing was done in the daytime while there was traffic in the background.
“The residents and compressors are there in off-peak hours as well,” he said.
At that time, Bulmer said the noise from the compressor may be more significant than they are used to. He also noted the compressor might not be running all of the time.
“I recognize fully the sound could be within MOE guidelines,” he said. “What is the scale of the impact?”
He said the complaint was lodged after a summer of the compressor not running.
Bulmer said he wanted a better understanding of the issue before making a decision and committing large dollars.
Councillor Ken Roth asked whether the MOE guidelines had changed since the last test and what happens if the test again shows noise levels below MOE guidelines.
If that were the case, Roth did not see the point of additional testing.
“Unless we do a sound test every day all winter long, I don’t think it is going to tell us the information we need because the next winter is going to be different anyway.”
He says he understands residents have had issues with the building, noting, “They were promised some things which did not come to fruition.”
One of those things was that the compressors would be on the other side of the building, Roth said.
He did not believe the township could initiate any measure which would make the residents happy, short of moving the equipment.
Councillor Susan Fielding spoke to residents as well and believed the noise was a specific incident and not ongoing.
She agreed more work is needed to pin down what is going on, but said setting aside $40,000 is a lot without knowing if there is a problem.
“It’s been regretful this has dragged on for so long.”
Stokley said it may be difficultly to put that much in the capital budget so he hopes the noise study is done in advance. He said it would still be up to council to make a final decision.
Bulmer said for him there were too many questions to put it in the budget this year.
At the same time, he had no issue with a detailed sound investigation to provide a better understanding for both the municipality and the residents.
“If we decide not to proceed with abatement the residents deserve to have the information as to why the decision was made,” he said.
Council’s final decision was to go ahead with the $3,000 sound audit and proceed from that point.