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Earlier starting time planned for noise rules downtown

The Common Council wants a quieter downtown area late at night.

Although no vote is scheduled until the Sept. 7 Council meeting, the aldermen decided at a work session Wednesday that they want to alter the city noise ordinance to curtail outdoor music.

At the moment, the city noise ordinance doesn't apply in the downtown area until 2 a.m.

Some bars, including Lock 34 Bar & Grille, formerly Taboo on Main Street at Ulrich City Centre, have been offering live bands outdoors until 2 a.m. or even later.

The Council wants to prohibit outdoor music after 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and after 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday nights.

"We're getting inundated with complaints," Mayor Michael W. Tucker said. "We want a lively business district, but if it's keeping up half the city, it's too much."

The rule change wouldn't stop the music; it simply would require that the bands or sound systems be moved indoors after the hours stated in the revised law.

The speakers are generally pointed south, and the music has sometimes been audible on Lincoln Avenue, more than a mile away on the city's southern border.

"My air conditioner's on, and my windows are shut, and I can still hear it," said Alderman Jack L. Smith Jr., D-2nd Ward, who lives just south of downtown.

"I got a call from a guy who had earplugs in and his head under the pillow, and he could still hear it," Tucker reported.

At first, Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at large, supported a limit of midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.

"Two o'clock is a little obsessive," replied Alderman Andrew D. Chapman, R-4th Ward.

"They do good business after 1. People who are schnockered are still buying," Kibler said.

City Clerk Richard C. Mullaney said "rhythmic thumping" is tiresome for people who have to get up early.

In other matters, Tucker also disclosed that repairing a sewer line cave-in on South Transit Street cost a total of $440,000.

The May 31 collapse of an old clay sewer main created a sinkhole and required the replacement not only of the sewer line but of a water line that had to be broken to get to the sewer pipe.

The sinkhole was blamed on shifting soil weakened by May's heavy rains. South Transit Street was not fully reopened to traffic until June 22.

Tucker said the city will have to borrow the repair money, and he expects to include the cost of the sinkhole in a $5 million bond issue the city expects to float shortly.

The city will ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse the city for crews' overtime during the sinkhole repairs, but Tucker said he expects little.