COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council is still trying to resolve complaints from residents about noise generated by Oconee Metal Recycling on Washington Street.
Citizens living in the area say that since Oconee Metal added a shredder to destroy cars, the noise level has increased to become bothersome, and some even claim that their homes and decks have cracks in them, allegedly from the vibrations coming from the facility.
The council agreed Monday night to spend up to an additional $4,000 to fund another noise study near the site. The city has already spent $6,000 for a noise and vibration study that concluded that the business is in compliance with the city ordinance and does not constitute a public nuisance. Councilman Chris Smith made the motion to fund another study, with the condition that the total spent by the city not exceed $10,000.
But residents in the area said the study may be a waste of money.
"Truthfully, I can't see you spending any more money on this noise situation," said James Taggert. "The machines are going to stay the same. The metal is going to stay the same, it's not going to get any softer. So where do we stand? As far as I'm concerned you're throwing good money after bad money."
Joe Hettinger played the council a recording he made of the loud noise from the plant while on his back deck, about half a mile away. While Hettinger said he appreciates owner Ed Cloud shutting down the machine on Saturdays, as he promised at the last City Council meeting, the noise is still bothersome throughout the week.
"I have a pool out there but you can't sit out there and enjoy it. You can't even have a conversation with this racket going on," he said. "I'll come here and play this for you every week and not charge you anything. I don't see spending a lot of money. It's not going to accomplish anything."
Planning Director Randy Vinson previously said the shredder was permitted in January 2009 by the former planning director. Several months later, the building permit was approved. Vinson was on staff at that time, and said he investigated and consulted the city attorney to determine whether adding the equipment would constitute an expansion.
"We determined they would just be more efficient at doing the exact same thing they'd been doing. They had been cutting up cars with motorized saws," Vinson said.
Resident Thomas Jay said there was no problem with noise until the shredder was brought in; he questioned whether the addition of the machine was properly vetted by the city, noting it is operating within 200 feet of some homes. Jay said the machine needs to be muffled to block the noise.
But owner Ed Cloud said that won't help.
"Putting mufflers on motors is easy but if there is a problem that's perceived, that would not solve the problem," he said, adding that the noise the neighbors are complaining about is the sound of the metal going into the shredder.
Though he said he likely can't enclose the entire machine, Cloud did agree to look into ways to buffer the sound.
The property in question was originally zoned heavy industrial and when the area was changed to light industrial, it was grandfathered in, said Mayor Ronnie Johnston.
"This is a legal issue. To a certain extent, we're kind of stuck," he said, adding that the business appears to be following the law.
City Attorney Ed Crudup said residents can file a nuisance complaint with Municipal Court for the judge to determine if there is a private nuisance being created, since the noise does not meet the threshold for a public nuisance.