WARSAW — Tensions were high during a code violation meeting dealing with an issue of noise during rodeos at the fairgrounds this summer.
The issue in concern was a rodeo that took place from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, July 24, this year.
City attorney Michael Valentine represented the city and mentioned that the city ordinance states “The making of or continuing, or causing or aiding to be made or continued, any loud, unnecessary or unusual noises whatsoever, which either annoy, injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health or safety of others, unless the making or continuing of the same is necessary for the protection or preservation of property, or the health, safety, life or limb of some person.”
Jim Brugh, representing Gabriel Lopez, who runs the rodeo, began by making a motion to dismiss the case based on the fact that it was unconstitutional. Ed Heaern, representing the fair board, also made a motion to dismiss the case.
Lawrence Clifford, the hearing officer, asked, “Do you gentlemen want to make a federal case out of this?”
Heaern replied, “Maybe.” He stated his case was built upon two relevant supreme court cases and and the fifth amendment. He requested they continue with the hearing and then decide if a dismissal was appropriate.
Several witnesses testified to the fact there was considerable noise coming from the fairgrounds on July 24. Two law enforcement officials and a Warsaw resident testified.
Corporal Wayne Wilkie testified he was on duty the night the rodeo occurred on July 24. He stated as he was a few miles away from the fairgrounds he could hear the sound of the rodeo, “Plain as day.”
He contacted the dispatcher on duty who eventually confirmed they had received, “At least 20” complaints of the noise coming from the fairgrounds.
Officer Rogelio Navarro testified to the fact that he was on duty the evening of the rodeo and was at Eastgate Apartments, located on Clinic Street, during the time of the rodeo. He had completed a welfare check when a resident asked him what the noise they were hearing was coming from. Navarro testified that from the apartment complex, he could understand about every other word that was being spoken. As he drove closer to the fairgrounds, he could hear more clearly.
Navarro, who speaks Spanish, mentioned the man he could hear was speaking in Spanish. He also stated he could hear bass from the music. Navarro added the language he was hearing was, “Very offensive to people,” because it included foul language.
“It’s not a crime is it?” said Heaern.
Randall Shepherd, president of the board of directors, took the stand. He stated the fairgrounds rent out the old racetrack for events throughout the year. He mentioned the fairgrounds typically rent to the rodeo approximately five or six times a year. He stated they have no control over the volume of the events that occur there.
Mary Clemons, who lives on Country Club Lane, took the stand and testified about her experience at her home on July 24. Clemons stated, “My mind went to what it would be like in a torture chamber.” She mentioned she kept hearing, “Boom, boom boom.”
She mentioned the noise began before noon and ended after 10 p.m. She said, “We couldn’t enjoy being outside our own home.”
Since that rodeo and another in August, Clemons decided to begin a petition to make the rodeos turn the volume down. The petition states, “To simply, politely request that the noise level duration and bass be turned down.” Clemons obtained 187 signatures on the petition. She stated was not asking for the rodeo to be shut down, just the volume lowered.
Heaern continually asked witnesses if they had been able to scientifically measure the noise level of the sounds they were hearing. They all stated they had no scientific way to measure the noise.
After the witnesses spoke, Clifford asked if the fair board really wanted a federal case.
Heaern stated he wanted his side of the case to be heard and asked to continue with the hearing.
Mayor Joe Thallemer, took the stand and testified the fairgrounds receive $2,000 from each time the rodeo rents the space for rodeos.
Clifford again stated, “I really don’t understand why this has to be a federal case.”
Heaern again asked the case to be dismissed.
“Why don’t you just solve it by turning down the volume for pete’s sake,” said Valentine. At this point the crowd began clapping.
Heaern mentioned the fairgrounds has had to compromise in the past and that it’s sole purpose is to put on events for the community. Heaern said to Clifford he’d only heard one side of the argument and that he needed to hear Heaern’s.
“Nobody has asked to have anything closed, it’s a disingenuous argument,” said Valentine.
Clifford again pressed this issue did not need to go to court and could be resolved at this meeting.
Heaern made a motion that if there is some kind of ordinance, there must be some kind of quantification for how loud the noise was. Clifford denied this part of his motion.
“Three miles away, that’s loud,” said Clifford.
Heaern then presented his case.
Shepherd took the stand and said, “$2,000 can make a difference whether we open this month.” Shepherd explained the fair needs all the money it can get. He stated the announcer of the rodeo, Gabriel Lopez, helps bring in income from rodeos and by sponsoring events at the fairgrounds such as the haunted house.
Lopez stated he had turned down the volume at his last rodeo in September. Shepherd agreed the noise was considerably lower.
Shepherd stated, “It’s a constant battle.” in reference to obtaining income for the fairgrounds.
Lopez then took the stand and stated, ” I don’t want to cause trouble for anybody.” He stated if he had to turn down the volume, he wanted there to be an ordinance which everyone Warsaw has to follow which states what specific decibel the volume of their event can be.
Clifford asked, “If they decided you must keep it below 50 decibels, would you go somewhere else?”
Lopez again stated he would not, he simply wanted there to be a consistent ordinance for everyone to follow, not just him.
After the hearing ended, Heaern again reiterated he would like a motion to dismiss. Clifford said he would consider the evidence to decide how to precede.