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Debate continues over curfew siren

  • TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Resident Liz Perschy informs Palmerton Borough Council on Thursday that she has a petition with over 200 signatures from residents who want to keep the 10 p.m. siren going.
    TERRY AHNER/TIMES NEWS Resident Liz Perschy informs Palmerton Borough Council on Thursday that she has a petition with over 200 signatures from residents who want to keep the 10 p.m. siren going.
Published August 27. 2010 05:00PM

Palmerton may consider an amendment to its curfew ordinance that could silence its nighttime siren.

The matter continued to be a hotly contested issue as residents spoke out both for and against the evening siren before Borough Council on Thursday.

A staple in the borough for decades, the siren sounds off twice a day: at noon for lunchtime, and at 10 p.m. to signify curfew for children.

Resident Liz Perschy presented council with a petition with over 200 signatures from residents who want to keep the 10 p.m. siren going.

Perschy said that the history of the sirens began with the Palmerton Zinc Company, and added that the west plant, east plant and central lab building all had a siren that sounded at every shift change.

"With the curfew siren, it's a reminder to kids to be home or get there now," Perschy said. "But, nonetheless, there was always a siren, except for when it was being repaired and everyone was wondering what happened to our siren."

Perschy said that the Zinc Company and the borough go hand-in-hand, and that without each other, "we would not be living here."

But, resident Glen Rehrig said he lives within 200 yards of the siren, and asked whether the sounding of the nighttime curfew siren was necessary.

Rehrig said that as council contemplates the matter, some citizens who live near the center of the borough "hope that comments from the police department and the citizens requesting the silencing of the siren would carry the most weight."

"This group of citizens claims the nighttime siren is an issue of 'disturbing the peace', or a 'nuisance', occurring at a time when most parents, children, babies, and pets are settling down for the night or already asleep," Rehrig said. "This is my strongest argument: The curfew siren is disturbing the peace at one of the most sensitive times of the day, and is doing so every day of the year."

Rehrig said the siren can emit a sound level as great as 140 decibels, which he said is "absolutely ridiculous."

"You might now realize why babies start crying and dogs begin howling," he said. "The siren sounds and the peace is disturbed."

Further, Rehrig said that a large number of the violations occur hours after the siren has sounded, and that the person being cited isn't in town when the siren sounded.

"The sounding of the curfew siren does not come close to being a remedy for solving curfew violations or late night disturbances," he said. "Parents being concerned about their children's whereabouts would be the best solution."

Rehrig said the siren "accomplishes the next thing to nothing in the enforcement of the curfew."

"We are asking you to silence the nighttime curfew siren," he said. "It is disturbing the peace, and affecting our quality of life."

Resident Jackie Bennett said her family lives nearby the siren and would like to see it remain intact.

"Our children sleep through it," Bennett said. "We would like you to keep it."

Andrew Rehrig, a member of the borough's Zoning Hearing Board, said the siren has been a tradition in the borough for as long as he can remember.

"It's just something you live with; it's symbolic," Jordan said. "It's part of our identity, and something that makes this town unique."

Mayor Brad Doll said the siren is activated by operators, and, as a result, the duration of time the siren goes off fluctuates.

But, resident Seth Rehrig, who last month told council he was the person who created the postcard-style petitions that were distributed to several homes in the borough, said he's fed up with the evening siren.

"It causes noise pollution, and aggravation," Seth Rehrig said. "I am dead sick of this thing. It needs to stop."

Resident Brian Shellhammer said the siren is a "cultural thing for us, a little quirky thing for us."

"To me, it's something important," Shellhammer said. "If it's gone, a little bit of Palmerton would suffer."

Councilman Chris Olivia said that while council was not prepared to make a decision on the matter at that time, it would turn it over to the borough's safety committee for further review.

Councilman Kris Hoffner thanked the residents for expressing their opinions about the siren.

"I'd like to thank everyone for coming out," Hoffner said. "This is a good thing, not a bad thing."

Borough Manager Rodger Danielson informed council that if it elects to do away with the 10 p.m. siren, it would need to amend a borough ordinance.

Councilman Randy Gursky said he believes the matter needs to be reviewed in more detail.

"We certainly can't sit here and make a decision tonight," Gursky said. "It needs to go to committee."

Doll then suggested that if council planned to review a portion of the ordinance, it should look at it in its entirety.

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