Monday, July 15, 2013

Council passes noise ordinance, gives Bourbon Chase a good shaking and stirring before approving its permit

Midway has a tougher noise ordinance and the Bourbon Chase has another permit to run through the town in mid-October, following tonight's city council meeting.

The council voted unanimously for the noise ordinance, which officials said would be easier to enforce than the current one, but not before some pointed questions from Council Member Bruce Southworth.

"Do we need this?" Southworth asked, inquiring how many noise complaints city officials have received in the last six months. Council Member Sharon Turner said she had probably received 10 during the past two years, mainly regarding "car stereos, fireworks and loud mufflers."

Turner and Council Member Dan Roller mentioned repeat violators, such as a car owner who regularly gunned his engine through loud pipes at 5:30 a.m. and a resident who used a riding lawn mower as a personal vehicle on the streets.

Council Member Grayson Vandegrift said he had heard from no one who was opposed to the ordinance, but Southworth continued to be skeptical, asking how it could be enforced, particularly against the driver of a vehicle moving through town.

The Versailles Police Department patrols the entire county. Assistant Chief Jim Fugate, who reviewed the ordinance while it was being drafted, said officers would try to catch up to the vehicle and stop it, and if the noise had ceased, tell the driver about the noise ordinance and the complaint.

City attorney Phil Moloney said, "There's no doubt it's going to be tough to enforce, but it's meant to control the excessive, extraordinary noise," and incidents when apparent violators don't stop when asked. Mayor Tom Bozarth added, "It's better to have something [than to tell citizens] there's nothing we can do. . . . This is something Chief Fugate and the police department need."

Southworth, apparently convinced, joined the rest of the council in approving the ordinance, which can be read here.

Towns on the Bourbon Chase route map are marked with distillery symbols
At its last meeting, the council tabled a permit request from the Bourbon Chase, an annual relay race on a route connecting Central Kentucky distilleries. Bozarth and several council members complained that guiding the runners through town is a burden with uncertain rewards. "It's starting to feel like people are coming in and taking advantage of our town," said Vandegrift, who made the motion to table. "The community should get something back for it."

The race benefits the National Hospice Foundation, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and LexArts, a funding source for Central Kentucky arts groups. Two weeks ago, the council discussed the possibility of tiered permit fees for such events, depending on their size, but that option was not discussed tonight.

Instead, the council and Bozarth gave a grilling to Bourbon Chase representative Mike Kuntz about the personnel and planning needed to make the race run safely and smoothly through Midway -- even after he told them that the race now requires those coming from long distances to provide volunteers, and that had quickly filled the slots for volunteers in the Midway area (two shifts of five volunteers each, he said afterward).

Bozarth pressed his case. "I'm not going to stand out here in Winter Street and direct traffic," as he did last year, he said. "Six of us have had to do this ourselves, and that's got to stop."

When Kuntz said the Bourbon Chase could bypass Midway in favor of other towns that want it, starting next year, Bozarth said they need to meet with Fugate to discuss traffic control, have a plan, and know when the first, last and bulk of the runners will hit town on Oct. 19. Kuntz said the bulk would come through a little after 2 p.m., and he offered to station the areas coordinator for the race in Midway. He also offered to take suggestions from local leaders about what to mention on informational sheets about the community that are given to runners and other team members.

Kuntz began his presentation by emphasizing the economic benefits of bringing hundreds of runners to the town. He said this year's relay will have 4,000 runners in 330 relay teams, "an affluent group . . . known for spending money when they are here." He said there is "anecdotal evidence" that runners are coming back for more leisurely visits. He said the race is trying for "controlled growth" and this year turned down more teams than it accepted.

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