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Courthouse noise — Resident pleads for commissioners to alleviate sound

June 22, 2012

The noise from the ventilation system of the renovated Auglaize County Courthouse is already causing concerns for an area resident.
Patricia Werst, who resides at 206 Willipie St. with her elderly father, said the sawing and the cement dust are both parts of the work she can deal with because they will end. The constant hum of the ventilation system, which reverberates through all three levels of her house is not and no end appears to be in sight.
After walking the blocks around the courthouse, Werst has determined that because of where her house is located, she is the only one whose home is impacted by the noise.
The volume of the noise varies between that of a loud vaccum cleaner to a lawn mower or a hive of buzzing bees, Werst said.
“It echoes through the house,” she said. “It’s a loud monotone hum all night long.
“Rrrrrrrrrr.....” Werst said trying to given commissioners an idea of the noise. “It
goes morning, noon and night. It goes over our house, through our house and under our house.”
It can be heard even when windows are shut (which is uncomfortable in a non-air conditioned home), when fans and the washer and dryer are running, and when the TV is above a comfortable volume level.
Werst said the noise has stopped her from carrying out a plan to rent out the upstairs of her house (where it can be heard the loudest) so she can have help caring for her father. It also has prevented her from enjoying the tranquility she used to find in her backyard and nighttime is the worst because everything else is so quiet.
“I’m very adjustable to noises that come and go — the train, the bank’s ATM machine, delivery trucks,” Werst said adding that she is used to hearing them all, but none of them continue day and night nonstop. “There’s no room in my house where I can escape from it, not even the basement.”
She said since the noise began she’s been unable to sleep, suffered from headaches, shakes constantly, and has been increasingly sick. She’s taken anti-anxiety medication and medication for high blood pressure, which she didn’t have before.
“It’s making me a nervous wreck,” Werst said. “It’s pure torture for me, I’m not exaggerating. I thought after a few days I would get use to it but it keeps getting worse. You’re taking away my life.”
“I don’t know if it is the pitch or what but it definitely has a deleterious affect on your whole outlook,” said attorney Bonnie Everett, who came with her friend to talk to the commissioners. “It intrudes on your awareness. After five minutes of being there I thought it was not that bad, but I stayed there talking to her for an hour and really noticed it. It bothers you. She would appreciate anything you can do.”
Being home caring for her father isn’t an easy job to begin with and Werst can’t just get away when she wants to.
She pleaded with the commissioners this week to do what they can to give her home back.
Werst asked if the noise could be directed in another direction.
“I’m probably the only person in town this bothers, but it is affecting my life,” Werst said. “I can’t begin to tell you how much of a problem it is for me.
“It’s literally driving me bonkers as you can see,” she said trying to keep the tears from falling down her face with hands that can’t stop shaking.
She asked the commissioners about containing the noise to certain hours, but said the proposed possibility of shutting the ventilation system down from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. isn’t enough.
“I’d like some peace earlier in the evening, if I have to listen to it all day,” Werst said.
County Maintenance Supervisor Rick Bice said although the ventilation system could be put on a schedule, it still would have to run most of the evening and the sooner it is shut off at night the earlier it would have to be turned on in the morning to reach the desired temperature in the building.
“It would take so long to cool back down if we left it off too long, the bills would be outrageous,” Bice said.
With computers which would allow the county to set up even a couple hours of relief for Werst still weeks away from delivery, Auglaize County Administrator Mike Hensley said it could be two months before a system may be in place to allow for any sort of scheduling.
“Honestly, we never gave it a second thought,” Commissioner John Bergman said as he sympathized with what Werst is experiencing.
He said he could relate to what she was hearing and compared it to a grain dryer outside of his home. He and Hensley agreed that they wouldn’t like the noise at their homes either.
“I know I am just one person, but when other people say they couldn’t deal with it, why should I have to?” Werst said. “You are making me think my life is not valuable. I’m begging you for help. I feel if there was a whole string of neighbors maybe something would be done faster.”
She said selling the house and moving away at this point isn’t an option, and her father has lived there almost all of his 80 years of life.
“We have no good answer at this point,” Commissioner Doug Spencer said.
He said they planned to talk with the project designer and see what could be done while protecting the integrity of the building by not allowing temperatures inside to get too hot or too cold.
“We don’t have an answer for you today,” said Bergman, adding that they would at least look at establishing a shut down schedule in the evenings. “There is no quick fix. From a practical standpoint, it will have to run a fair amount of time, but maybe there is an option of something that would make it quieter or deflect the noise up instead of right on you.”
Hensley agreed that they would try to alleviate Werst’s concerns but just turning off the ventilation system would not be a viable solution.
“I’m sure this is a problem the engineer has run into before,” Commissioner Don Regula said. “I want to hear from him that nothing can be done before we say that.”

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