June 18, 2018
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West Side residents complain about noise from Bangor waterfront concerts

By Eric Russell, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — From his home on Sidney Street, one of the many residential streets off Main Street on Bangor’s West Side, Bill Meier can’t see the waterfront or the massive empty stage that dominates the space.

Come summertime, though, when the stage is occupied and thousands of people are crowded onto that grassy area overlooking the Penobscot River, Meier certainly will be able to hear the waterfront.

It will be a steady vibration, he said, and he knows from past experience. It will be a thump, thump, thump of bass in his chest that doesn’t go away. The noise won’t be heard just from outside on his porch but also inside his home with the windows shut and the air conditioner running.

“It becomes intolerable,” Meier told city councilors Wednesday night. “We’re just looking for some relief.”

The city is in a bit of pickle. Almost everybody — Meier included — agrees that the Waterfront Concert Series has been great for the city of Bangor, both culturally and economically. However, as the concert series gets ready to launch its second season, more and more residents are coming forward to express noise concerns.

Council Chairwoman Susan Hawes told Meier on Wednesday that he wasn’t alone with his feelings. Several residents have complained about concert noise dating back to last fall and Hawes concluded that the problem has become more than a mild irritant.

It’s also a problem with no easy solution. Can the city simply ask the musicians to turn down their bass? Probably not. Can they reconfigure the speakers so the noise travels away from neighborhoods? Perhaps, but that might not do any good. Can they erect sound barriers? Sure, but who pays?

“I wish there were more people here to talk about this,” Councilor Geoff Gratwick said Wednesday. “We can’t drive [residents] out of their home. We need to keep this discussion ongoing.”

So councilors and municipal staff agreed Wednesday to keep putting their heads together to try to come up with reasonable noise mitigation solutions, knowing full well that the efforts could be futile.

Councilor Rick Bronson, who has decades of experience working concerts around New England, said residents such as Meier have been quite tolerant but also agreed that the council and the city have little ability to alleviate their concerns.

Meier seemed to understand the city’s bind, but he said Thursday that he was cautiously hopeful that a solution could be reached.

On Wednesday, he shared a story with councilors about a concert he and his wife attended recently at the Augusta Civic Center — Meat Loaf, one of their favorites. It was wonderful, he said, but loud.

“Our ears were ringing for three days,” he said. “But that was our choice.”

With the Waterfront Concerts within earshot from his home, Meier doesn’t have a choice but to endure the noise or keep pushing for an alternative.

“It seems like a lot for residents like us to bear,” he said.

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