Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Council backs neighbors over developer on noise issue

Four weeks of 24/7 generator not acceptable

By Mark Reaman

Consciously choosing to accommodate citizens living in town rather than the financial concerns of a developer, the Crested Butte Town Council made it clear Tuesday that comfort, not cost, was the priority.

According to public works director Shea Earley, as part of a sewer installation for the new Slate River Development that will be tied to town water and sewer system, a new lift station needs to be installed east of Teocalli and Tenth near the Paradise Park subdivision. In order to perform the installation, temporary dewatering wells have to be installed to maintain groundwater infiltration during construction. Those pumps will have to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week for about a month. The contractor, Lacy Construction, has proposed mobilizing a diesel-powered generator to power four three-phase pumps.

A test demonstration of the generator recorded high decibel readings from the generator. Sixty-three decibels were recorded 25 feet away and 51 decibels were recorded at 125 feet. The more quiet alternative is to install a temporary electrical pedestal and run the pumps on electricity, but the electrical power source is a single-phase system instead of a three-phase system used by the pumps.

Earley wrote in a memo to council, “The contractor expressed concerns that using a single-phase power source may not be adequate to maintain dewatering operations.”

Earley said the town wanted to make sure the lift station was installed properly since it would become part of the town infrastructure system. He said using the generator was probably the most cost-effective choice.

“Having that noise a couple of days is one thing, but three or four weeks is a horrible burden,” said mayor Jim Schmidt.

Councilwoman Laura Mitchell suggested major soundproofing measures at a minimum.

“We’re discussing how to save the developer money by not going to the electric grid?” asked councilwoman Mallika Magner. “Who has to pay for the installation?”

“That is the responsibility of the developer. We are looking at what is practical and trying to be fair about it,” said Earley.

“How much more money is it?” asked Magner.

“It depends on how many more pumps they’d have to install,” responded Earley who indicated the project would likely start in mid-September.

Paradise Park resident Trevor Main said a similar generator ran for about a week last year. “I almost lost my mind. I wanted to blow it up,” he told the council. “It was a huge burden on me. This generator is quieter but I can still hear it. It is extraordinarily difficult to sleep, even with earplugs. It’s a constant drone. If there is a way to run the electricity there, please do it. Do what you can to keep it from being six weeks of hell out there.”

Neighbor Mike Horn agreed. “There were pumps running illegally out there last weekend,” he said. “It’s not a good precedent of trust and being considerate of Paradise Park with these types of projects. I have a hard time believing the motive isn’t to make as much money as possible. We’re not asking for the infrastructure to stop but we are looking for more respect across the board. This neighborhood is made up of working people in town.”

Resident Sue Emory suggested using the generator during the day and electricity at night.

“I don’t like the idea of putting ‘practicality’ before people,” said Emory’s husband, Kevin. “Look at what other options are out there. I don’t want to listen to ‘Arrrrrrr’ for six weeks.”

Resident John Hess pointed out to the council that lots in the subdivision were selling for more than a million dollars. “Why isn’t the developer paying for this?,” he asked. “Why aren’t they going straight to the electric? They have a hell of a lot of money.”

Contractor John Stock suggested the issue could be solved by a using phase-converter with the electricity. A phase converter is a rotating machine, much like a motor, that converts single-phase utility power into three-phase electricity to operate three-phase equipment. That suggestion quieted the crowd.

“It seems the diesel generator isn’t a good option and we should tell the developer to use electricity,” said Schmidt.

“We should insist on electricity that is quiet,” agreed Mitchell. “The cost analysis? I mean the lots are selling for millions of dollars. Give me a break.”

“We need to find a better solution than the diesel generator,” added councilman Chris Haver.

“I do not want our community burdened by this noise,” said Magner.

Council voted to not allow the diesel generator as presented and instructed the developer to come up with another solution to power the pumps.

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