Sound barriers to be added to just-opened firing range Nearby residents complain about noise

December 11, 1996|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,SUN STAFF

The County Commissioners voted to spend an additional $12,000 on the county's new firing range yesterday in an attempt to muffle the noise of gunfire bothering residents in a nearby subdivision.

The range, deep in the Northern Landfill off Route 140 north of Reese Road, is shielded on the right by a steep hill and on the left by sound panels and woods. But it is open at the rear.

And five days a week, from 10 a.m. to an hour before sundown, the sounds of rifle and pistol fire travel across the open landfill through a valley and up a hillside to the Tannery Manor subdivision off Naugahyde Road.

The commissioners agreed yesterday to put an 80-foot-long acoustical curtain across the back of the shooting area and to treat the side walls and baffles of the open-air range with quilted fiberglass noise absorbers.

Veterinarian Sandi Ehnen, a resident of the 3-year-old development and a member of the firing range advisory board, worries that all that might not be enough.

"I'm not at all certain that this is going to make a significant difference," Ehnen said.

The range has been open since Nov. 14, operating Wednesday through Sunday, but already Ehnen and her neighbors "are going nuts," she said.

"I look at my watch often because I know that come 4 or 5 o'clock, there will be silence," she said.

"It's like a water torture," she said of the gunfire. "A splash in the face might be OK, but it's the constancy that gets you. It's like someone popping corn all day long, only some pops are louder than others.

"It's only eight hours, but in summer, they will be open till an hour before sunset, and the state police will be using the range the two days it's closed" to the public.

The thought of hearing gunfire every day, 10 hours a day, is driving her and her neighbors crazy, she said. "It means we will spend less time outside. I have two small children. I'm really anxious," she said.

So is Julie Goge of Leatherwood Drive. "There is good noise and bad noise," she said. "You can hear airplanes overhead and hardly notice them, but there is something about gunfire. It is a bad noise."

The sound seems to grow louder as it crosses the valley and echoes through the subdivision, she said. "Sometimes, it will go on for hours and then stop briefly. Each time it starts, you flinch all over again. You never get used to it."

Only an enclosed range would keep the sound from reaching the subdivision, Richard J. Soisson, director of parks and recreation, told the commissioners yesterday. The problem with doing that is that it would create an air pollution problem, he said.

The rear acoustical curtains will be put on tracks so that they can be opened after firing to allow fresh air to circulate through the range. Soisson expects the new equipment to be in place in about two months.

The gunfire sounds were measured at the subdivision under "a worst-case scenario," Soisson told the commissioners, and are well within state noise limits. The sound measured 51 decibels. State law requires daylight sound to be less than 65 decibels.

The $62,000 range was mostly paid for with grants and donations from gun enthusiasts. During January, February and March, the days of operation will be Friday, Saturday and Sunday. It will resume operating five days a week in April.

The range was designed to be self-supporting. Since its opening, 406 people have paid $20 apiece for yearly passes to the range, Soisson said. The daily fee is $5.

Pub Date: 12/11/96

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