By Scott Sullivan
Douglas has squelched plans to install loudspeakers in the downtown area after no residents raised voices to support it following a meeting where neighbors questioned the value of doing so Oct. 2.
City council voted 5-2 Oct. 16 not to approve $12,000 budgeted this fiscal year for the project. The majority — Mayor Jim Wiley plus council members Lisa Greenwood, Pat Lion, Kathy Mooradian and Linda Anderson — noted there was no plan for who would control the music, what kind of music or hours it would be played, nor had any subsequent support been voiced for the project.
Council members Greg Harvath and Neal Seabert voted for the motion.
Both 2017-18 city and Downtown Development Authority budgets included an allocation to install an audio control system and speakers along Center Street from Washington to Mixer streets. The lower of two bids to perform the work, $25,989.04 from Farrell Audio Video of Kalamazoo, exceeded the city’s and DDA’s combined $25,000 total by $989.04.
Downtown residents speaking Oct. 2 and writing letters to city council opposed placing loudspeakers there at all.
“As a downtown condo owner, I’m against this,” said Robin Bauer.
“Please don’t pursue this,” agreed Mark Neidlinger.
“Who decides what music, volume and frequency will be playing?” asked another resident.
Downtown business owner Kim Neuens asked council in a letter what value the city would get from the purchase considering, “we have no one in town to play the speakers to,” she said.
“I have lived and worked in this area for 42 years,” wrote Fran Poposki. “This idea, I am sure, stems from the desire to make coming to Douglas a better experience.
“I believe it is a mistake, as piped-in music is everywhere, and my friends and I often make our dining choices and other get-together plans based on the atmosphere of quiet, so we can converse comfortably,” she continued.
“I would feel sorry for people working in Douglas being subjected to listening constantly to whatever is playing … I think homes and gardens near the downtown will also be impacted by ‘noise,’” Poposki said.
“I’m concerned,” said Lion Oct. 2, “that only merchants, not homeowners, were consulted about the loudspeakers plan. A large percentage of affected people were not considered.“
“No one in the audience is saying they want this,” added Greenwood.
“We’ve discussed this for more than five years,” replied Harvath. “The DDA was having a rough time of it seeking ways to bring people downtown. Merchants came to us then not wanting to create noise but more like white noise.”
“How did we get the line-item $12,000 for this project?” asked Wiley.
“It came from the lighting committee a year ago,” said city manager Bill LeFevere.
“The idea,” said Seabert, also a lighting committee member, “was not to have loud or blaring music drowning out what might be playing in stores.”
Council tabled voting that night, with Harvath suggesting the city survey residents as to their views “given how much time and money we’ve spent on this,” he said.
Zoning administrator Lisa Imus told council Oct. 16 a survey would take time to do properly and she was already dealing with too many projects. The same 5-2 majority voted for removing the motion from the table, then against funding the downtown loudspeaker plan.