Lodi resident Timothy Miller gave Lodi City Council members an earful about noise from the sound system installed last year at the Grape Bowl at their meeting last week, telling them the noise on the weekends has caused him mental distress and he is considering suing the city over the issue.
Miller has lived directly behind the Grape Bowl on Calaveras Street for 20 years, and said at the Nov. 6 meeting that until the new sound system was installed last year as part of a new scoreboard system, he never had a problem with the noise.
Now, Miller said, he can’t even spend time in his backyard on Friday evenings during high school football games, or all day on Saturdays when junior league football games run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., because the noise is unbearable.
“If you had that kind of noise in your backyard, you would not want to sit there and have a glass of iced tea either,” Miller told council members.
Miller said he has been asking the city to lower the noise level since last year, but to no avail.
He said he has worked with Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services director Jeff Hood, and he believes Hood is not taking his complaints seriously.
“In my opinion, Mr. Hood has acted with callous disregard to my concerns and my misery and suffering,” Miller said.
That’s not the case, Hood told the News-Sentinel on Wednesday. He said he has been working on the problem since Miller began complaining last year, despite the fact that sound measurements show the noise on Calaveras Street from the Grape Bowl is below the city’s 85-decibel limit.
“We don’t want to be disruptive to anybody,” Hood said.
Last year, Hood had the volume on the sound system turned down and had a sound technician from Hutchins Street Square adjust the bass and treble levels on the system.
Hood said that before last weekend’s games, the sound was lowered even further — leading to complaints from spectators at games who say they can’t hear what announcers are saying.
Hood said he is also trying to get the company that installed the sound system to re-angle the speakers in the scoreboard to see if that will help.
Hood even spoke to some of Miller’s neighbors on Calaveras Street on Oct. 29, 2012, with only one other resident saying the noise was a serious problem.
A copy of the Oct. 29 survey of 12 houses on Calaveras Street given to the News-Sentinel supported Hood’s assessment, with most residents saying the noise was a little bit of a problem, but nothing serious. Names of residents were not listed on the copy, just the addresses of those residences where someone spoke to city officials on Oct. 29.
Hood said he had a meeting with Miller on Nov. 20 of last year. He said Miller thanked him for lowering the volume, and that he would not be complaining to the city again.
“At the end of last year, (Miller) said he was satisfied,” Hood said.
Miller did not respond to a message left at his place of business from the News-Sentinel asking for comment.
At the city council meeting, Miller said that perhaps the design of the Grape Bowl may make it act like an amplifier that blares sound out into the neighborhood like a trumpet.
An informal canvass of the neighborhood on Wednesday by the News-Sentinel found a neighbor of Miller’s who said the sound is definitely louder in her backyard than in the stadium.
Sarah Richardson said she was at a high school football game at the Grape Bowl and could barely hear the announcers. But she had to leave the game early to take her young daughter home, and said the same game could be heard loudly in her yard.
Richardson, who did not speak to the city last year, said the sound from the Grape Bowl is “invasive” and “crosses the line” of acceptable noise levels.
Brenda Burnett, another Calaveras Street resident who just moved onto the street this year, said she expects noise from Friday night high school football games, but the sound from Saturday junior league football games and the occasional Sunday soccer tournament can be obnoxiously loud.
She said her husband, who has lived in the house for many years, told her the sound from the Grape Bowl has definitely been louder over the past two years.
Richard Moos, who lived at the one house on Calaveras Street that told city officials the noise was too loud during the Oct. 29 canvass, said he has noticed that the noise is much louder during the Saturday games. He thought that the announcers for the Saturday games may be turning up the volume on the sound system.
On Wednesday, the News-Sentinel was able to speak to a fourth person on Calaveras Street who would not give her name, but said the noise was not a problem. It was the same response someone at the address gave city officials on Oct. 29, 2012.
At the city council meeting, City Manager Rad Bartlam said he took exception to Miller’s characterization of Hood, and that Hood and the city have been taking his complaints very seriously.
Bartlam said that announcers, who don’t work for the city, may not be following the rules concerning volume.
“We have a variety of announcers who are not city employees — both with the school district and the various users of the Grape Bowl — who are not taking instruction very well,” Bartlam said. “It is a work in progress, and we are not finished yet trying to resolve this issue.”
Hood and Bartlam are scheduled to meet with Miller on Thursday morning.
Contact reporter Todd Allen Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.