At the most recent Board of Butler County Commissioners meeting, Butler County resident of Douglass, Jeff Runyon appeared before the Board to appeal for help in resolving a long-running noise pollution nuisance with neighbor who is a Wichita Police Department Officer.
Citing the near daily running of 4-Wheelers, Mr. Runyan expressed his frustration with the noise pollution. “These are not regular four wheelers, they are racing bikes with hardly any mufflers [and] has gone on for 5 years.” He stated the noise level has increased each year.
He presented a specific incident when he called the Sheriff's office. On October 1, 2016, the noise began at 8a in the morning and continued all day. From his home, half a mile away, he documented the noise with a decibel meter at 79 decibels. After canister fireworks went off, he called the Sheriff, it was approximately 10:30p. Once the Sheriff’s deputy had left, Mr. Runyan heard individuals get back on the bikes and make comments such as “take that.”
In addition to the disruption to daily life, he noted, “You can’t do anything without wondering when and where it’s going to start up.” Also, he has witnessed that the behavior is harassing wildlife.
Pleading with the Commission he asked for serious help in putting together a noise resolution that can be enforced. “It is obnoxious behavior. Where’s our rights and what can we do?”
“[Mr. Runyan] is not only one in that area complaining” stated Commissioner Woydziak “We need to look at an enforceable law.”
Sheriff Kelly Herzet can not currently issue a ticket according to Butler County Attorney, Darrin Devinney. He presented the challenges to prosecution under the active ordinance. It is an undetermined misdemeanor imposing a $500-$2000 fine for a first offense as a Class A misdemeanor.
Some of those challenges include the need for standardized equipment to enforce, as well as the cumulative effect of sound as a problem. Mr. Devinney asked, “Do we [prosecute] the land owner or all the parties? We have talked about this at length. Sheriff Herzet and David Alfaro have spoken with Mr. Runyan regarding the remedies available to him.”
Sheriff Herzet has been accumulating sound ordinances violations for several years and this situation has been well documented. Commissioner Masterson asked if a decibel level is set within the current ordinance and it was identified as limiting the allowable decibel level.
With respect to obtaining standardized equipment for the department, he stated, “A decibel meter is not too expensive.” Sheriff Herzet outlines the actions he has taken. “What I’ve done is I have reached out. This guy is a Wichita police officer. Made contact ... to let him know we’re on a complaint.” Sheriff Herzet added, “I like riding motorcycles but not from 8a-10p”
County Administrator, Will Johnson informed the Commission that the complaint of out of season fireworks is currently enforceable.
The Commission determined to investigate how to amend the ordinance.