ALBANY — A Dougherty County official is calling for an investigation into noise complaints regarding the Albany Motor Speedway, reopening a chapter in county business that was thought to have been resolved back in 2008.
Dougherty County Commissioner John Hayes called the noise complaints a “lingering issue,” telling commissioners at their meeting Monday morning that the complaints may be “driving some elderly citizens out of the county.” The commission had approved continued operation of the track in 2008, but placed muffler restrictions on race cars to reduce noise.
The manager of the speedway, after learning of Hayes’ comments, said Monday afternoon that muffler requirements required by the county were being strictly enforced at the racetrack.
“When folks show up out here, one rule is clear: If you don’t have a muffler, you go home,” speedway manager John King said. “That’s not negotiable. And we even have mufflers for sale at cost if someone wants to buy one at the track. We’ll help install them so that folks can race.”
King said he was surprised to hear of noise complaints.
“First of all, we hadn’t had a race at the track since October until this past weekend, so if a commissioner got any complaints, it had to be today,” the track manager said. “I’m pretty sure the noise problem is with the (adjacent) U.S. 19 Dragway. They have stuff out there pretty much continuously, and they have no (noise) restrictions.
“It’s strange that we’re hearing this from the county because they have an inspector out here for every race. When the cars go up on the scales, if they don’t have a muffler, they don’t race.”
The dragway, which has operated for decades, was “grandfathered in” by county officials and does not fall under any noise restrictions that have since been placed into the county code.
Hayes said the noise issue among residents in the Radium Springs neighborhood “has not gone away” since the commission placed more stringent noise restrictions on the speedway. He said he heard complaints from residents in the neighborhood at a recent community meeting.
“I don’t know what we can do, but there has been conversation about promoting the Radium Springs neighborhood as a retirement community,” Hayes said. “I’ve been contacted by two people who are literally packed and ready to move out of that community. That’s the last thing we need.
“I don’t know if it’s the mufflers or the berm not being put in properly, but we need to address this issue.”
County Administrator Richard Crowdis said his office had gotten no noise complaints since the county implemented the tougher noise restrictions on the track, and he, too, mentioned citizens’ failure to differentiate between the speedway and the dragway.
“The complaints that I have heard about the oval track (speedway) actually concerned the drag strip,” Crowdis said. “I will double check with Dougherty County police, but we should still be monitoring mufflers (at the speedway). As for the berm, that was not an approved item (in the restrictions).
“If citizens do have complaints, we encourage them to contact DCP so that they can document them.”
King said he had no concerns about the county checking on the speedway’s compliance with the noise ordinance.
“The last time folks were complaining, they sent the University of Georgia — I believe it was — out here with a decibel meter,” he said. “They did their monitoring on a night that we were racing and did not even get a reading.”
Also at Monday’s meeting, the commission:
— Voted to approve the purchase of a long boom excavator for $203,678 from Yancey Brothers of Albany and a 2014 Ford 150 pickup for $26,595.08 from Sunbelt Ford Lincoln of Albany;
— Agreed to replace four HVAC units on the Riverfront Resource Center building at a total cost of $64,937 with equipment coming from Georgia Trane of Atlanta and labor provided by Comfort Systems USA of Albany;
— OK’d a resolution allowing the state Department of Transportation to move forward with improvements on the Sylvester Highway at County Line Road;
— Approved a quit claim deed that will convey to the city of Albany two strips of land along Dawson Road for use as a public right-of-way;
— Set qualifying fees for the 2014 county election, which will see the commission chairmanship and board seats 2, 4 and 6 up for re-election. Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard shocked meeting attendees Monday by announcing he would not seek re-election. The other contested seats are currently held by John Hayes (District 2), Ewell Lyle (4) and Jack Stone (6). Stone has indicated he may not seek re-election.