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Neighbors seek relief from noise in Childs Park

Neighbors Mary Haugabook, left, and Pearl McCall complain that Alsco, a linen services company, operates machinery that wakes them at 5 a.m. “It sounded loud, almost like a boiler,” McCall said.

LARA CERRI | Times

Neighbors Mary Haugabook, left, and Pearl McCall complain that Alsco, a linen services company, operates machinery that wakes them at 5 a.m. “It sounded loud, almost like a boiler,” McCall said.

ST. PETERSBURG — Residents of 39th Street S thought they had taken care of the problem that was waking them up early. A low, dull roar that surfaced daily about 5 in the morning was agitating them. They said the sound was coming from the Alsco linen services plant across the street.

After a meeting with the plant's general manager, residents thought the situation was resolved and that the noise would end, but some are now saying nothing has changed.

Pearl McCall, 61, and other neighbors along 38th and 39th Streets S began to complain in October to their community service officer, Scott King, as well as City Council member Wengay Newton.

"It sounded loud, almost like a boiler," McCall said.

The Police Department made the determination that the early morning sound did not violate the city's noise ordinance, King said.

Newton arranged for Paul Stellrecht, economic development coordinator for the city, to sit down with a group from the neighborhood along with the general manager of Alsco, Sean Michot, to work out an agreement that would keep the peace. At the November meeting, which residents and Michot described as friendly, several agreements were made.

Stellrecht said that Michot seemed very receptive to the community concerns. "It was a very open, very forthcoming, session. He talked about some of the potential reasons for the noise and said he'd look into it."

At the time, Michot said he thought the noise came from two large exhaust fans that were used to cool down the facility. He told his plant manager to stop running them in the morning. He also said he worked to make sure his truck drivers weren't passing through residential streets early in the morning. Some of them arrive at 4 a.m.

However, some residents say that the business has not lived up to the agreement and they are still being awakened by a mysterious noise early in the morning. "Nothing has changed," said Lashaun Crawford, 58. "It's loud. It's like a rumbling that's about to drive me crazy."

Michot said that since the meeting in November, he had heard no further complaints from the majority of residents. "If somebody's hearing a boiler, they'd have to come and point to what they're hearing," Michot said.

"I've sat on the corner of Fairfield and 39th. I'd be glad to sit out there again and they are more than welcome to point out whatever machine they are or are not hearing."

The business has a long presence in the community. It first opened in 1954. Several neighbors who are now complaining, such as Leroy Spencer Jr., 59, previously worked at the plant.

"We never had a problem with noise back then," said Spencer, who was employed there during the '80s. "But this is just disrespectful to the neighborhood," he said.

McCall said she has lived in the neighborhood for more than 30 years and can't recall ever having a problem until last year.

Brenda Nelson, president of the Childs Park Neighborhood Association, said she didn't know that the noise issue hadn't been settled. She used the neighborhood association meeting Monday night to discuss it further. She looks at the issue pragmatically. "What can we do to help the situation?" she said. "The business is not going anywhere and the community is not moving either."

Council member Newton also thought the problem had been put to rest. He said in a phone interview that residents would have to be more specific to make sure the source of the problem is being addressed.

"Don't go to the doctor and say your foot's bothering you when something's wrong with your neck," he said. "You have to be specific with the problem you have to mitigate."

"We need to get back together and meet with these people and say 'it wasn't the fan, let's see what else,' " Newton said. "It wasn't a closed one-time thing because they have a business that provides jobs, so they have to find a way to co-exist."

Austin Bogues can be reached at abogues@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8872.

Neighbors seek relief from noise in Childs Park 01/13/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 5:24pm]

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