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12:39 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

New signs, decibel meters aim to turn down Prescott's downtown noise

PRESCOTT - With one side pushing for more enforcement or perhaps a stricter ordinance, and the other side maintaining that beefing up citations would be overkill, the city opted for the middle ground this week.

While the Prescott Police Department stopped short of recommending a stricter ordinance to deal with noise issues, it will take a number of steps to bring more attention to the problem.

For instance, new traffic signs, noise meters, and an education program are all in the works.

That was the word from Police Chief Mike Kabbel, who appeared before the Prescott City Council at a Tuesday workshop discussion on noise problems.

"We believe our current ordinance is adequate to address any violations," Kabbel told the council.

Even so, he acknowledged that the police department regularly receives complaints about noise - ranging from loud motorcycles to music to vehicles.

"In receiving a lot of these complaints, we've come up with an enforcement strategy," Kabbel said.

Beginning in a month or so, the city will post a series of street signs letting drivers know that Prescott strictly enforces its noise ordinance, Kabbel said.

In addition, the police department plans to buy two decibel meters, which will give officers a new tool to determine whether noises violate the city's ordinance that prohibits "loud and disturbing noise."

Kabbel said the police department also plans an education program to remind the public that noise issues come down to "respect for one another."

In all, Kabbel estimates the cost for the enforcement at $2,115 - including $1,200 for the two sound level meters, and $915 for new signs.

The plan for more enforcement raised questions, however, from local motorcyclists who maintained that it would be difficult and largely unnecessary.

"There's a lot of expense that's going to be incurred by this enforcement, when it's already being enforced," local motorcyclist David Pratt said, referring to Kabbel's report that the police department had issued 73 noise-related citations over the past year.

And Steve Gougeon, owner of the GMR Performance motorcycle shop in Prescott, said it would be difficult for local police to enforce the state motorcycle law, which he said was complicated and not clear.

"It's chaos," Gougeon said of the state law. "It's all over the board; it's based on the year and weight (of the motorcycles)."

But others in the audience saw the issue as a simple matter of enforcing what already is on the books.

"I'm just saying 'enforce the law.' It's easy to do," said local resident Dennis DuVall. "Motorcycle noise is just plain inconsiderate to everyone wanting to enjoy the otherwise uniquely peaceful atmosphere around the courthouse square."

DuVall claimed that much of the problem stems from motorcycles that do not follow Arizona statute, which states that motorcycles must have mufflers.

"It seems to me most motorcycles in the downtown are in violation (of the state noise statute)," DuVall said, maintaining that it is obvious that many motorcycles have "straight pipes," which he said do not comply with state law.

DuVall suggested that the city's parking officials could easily check to see if motorcycles parked downtown have mufflers or whether they have straight pipes (mufflers removed), and could then write tickets for the violators.

But Gougeon said many mufflers have the appearance of straight pipes, and it would be impossible for a parking attendant to tell whether a motorcycle has a muffler just by looking at it.

Although the council took no vote on the noise issue, members appeared supportive of Kabbel's plan.

While Mayor Marlin Kuykendall noted that he had heard from two Whiskey Row bar owners who were worried about the possible impacts of a stricter ordinance, he said the bar owners agreed that the city should be enforcing the existing law.

"It sounds to me like you're on your way," Kuykendall said to Kabbel.