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Citizens’ concerns labeled ‘nonsense’

Two-hundred citizens (who signed a petition) were told their concern about the noise problem from the Hamer Fuel Pellet Plant is “nonsense” by Elkins City Council member Charlie Friddle at the latest Rules and Ordinance (R&O) Committee meeting on Sept.10.

Furthermore, in an exception to Council meeting rules, the Hamer CEO was given the opportunity to present his case in person to the R&O Committee, while local citizens and petition signers were not allowed the same courtesy. Ordinary citizens were only allowed to participate through an internet connection which was constantly malfunctioning.

This was very unfair to the public because their voices were not heard at the meeting and as a result, the R&O Committee voted against amending the noise ordinance to include industrial noise, which is now exempted. It would appear that those in power are not interested in what the public has to say.

“Believe me when I say vibrant communities are not quiet,” said Friddle, implying this is an employment versus environment argument, as if it must be one or the other. We believe this is a false choice. We all need a livelihood but we all need an agreeable and safe place to live where our property values are protected.

Residents who complain about the noise from Hamer have never said that they wanted to cause any problems for the company. This issue is about the health and well-being of our community. People simply want the ability to sleep at night and enjoy evenings on their porches and backyards without an industrial noise droning all the time. This is not “nonsense.”

Elkins Make it Quiet (EMIQ) has offered to donate $4,500 to the Hamer company for a scientific sound assessment, but their attempts to contact the CEO have been ignored. Here’s how this problem could be solved. EMIQ Committee member Edward Bowes is a professional engineer with over 35 years of experience in engineering, plant management, project management and consulting. He also served for 15 years as an adjunct engineering instructor with the University of Virginia. Following are his comments from the Ordinance Committee meeting of Sept 10.

“It’s a fact that 200 Elkins households have signed a petition stating that the noise from Hamer is negatively affecting the quality of their lives. The city government seems to wish to ignore and dismiss the complaints of the citizens they supposedly represent.

“Random dB readings taken using cell phone apps are not a meaningful analysis. The best and only way to get an accurate and objective measure of the noise so many are experiencing would be to engage a professional industrial noise engineer to study the problem and provide recommendations and cost estimates for various solutions.

“The EMIQ committee has offered to fund a professional study of the noise issue, at a cost of $3,000 to $5,000, and only asks in return that any recommendations be implemented in a reasonable way. If certain parties are certain that there is no problem, they have nothing to fear and should welcome a study that would lay the issue to rest. If there is a problem, as over 200 households have attested, then everyone involved could work together toward an equitable solution.

“Contrary to certain opinions stated during the recent Ordinance Committee meeting, there is no inherent conflict between industrial development and preservation of quality of life. To imply that we must choose between them is simply false. Having operated and managed large industrial facilities for a professional and responsible company, I know for certain that being a good neighbor is also good business. A citizens’ committee respectfully asking a company to do the right thing and be a good neighbor is the furthest thing from ‘dragging their good name through the mud.’ When a company can’t offer the courtesy of a reply to citizens’ respectful letters of genuine concern, that is the opposite of being a good neighbor.”

Members of Elkins Make It Quiet,

Ed Bowes, Richard McClane, Katy McClane, Jean Snedeger, Sue McMillon, Margo Blevin Denton, Bob McCutcheon and Logan Smith

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