By Hannah Lester
Beauregard citizens are begging for help.
A group of Beauregard residents attended Monday night’s Lee County Commission meeting with complaints of noise in their community.
“Let me just paint a picture for you,” said Sean Owsley, one of the residents in the area. “You survived a tornado, your family, loved ones, father, son was killed in it. You get woken wide awake at 4 a.m. on a day that there are severe storm threats in the area to somebody playing tornado sirens, air raid sirens.”
The noise complaints include the recorded, non-EMA tornado and air raid sirens, but also the sounds of coyote mating calls, other animal noises, church bells and more.
“This [neighbor] basically made the comment, if you can hear this you must live in a trailer and that’s your own fault,” Owsley said. “Regardless of what anybody lives in, if I live in a cardboard box, I should be able to go outside, on my porch, and enjoy the outside air, enjoy the summers, enjoy the nice fall nights and we can’t do that. I’m a half a mile away.”
Noises begin sometimes by 10 p.m. and continue through the early morning hours, as late as 5 a.m, Owsley said.
“We’re just asking for something to be done so we can enjoy the county,” he said.
One resident in Beauregard, Tim Cummings, said he is a combat veteran with PTSD, directly affected by the noises in Beauregard.
However, it is not only veterans affected, Cummings said, but the community at large.
“This is also posing a risk to our entire community because now we don’t know if there’s going to be a tornado or something else that’s going to hit,” he said.
Many of those in this community lost their homes, possessions and even their family to the 2019 tornadoes.
“You’ll have to forgive me, but my grandson is the one that’s affected by this,” said resident Leanne Kidd. “And [District 4 Commissioner] Ham, you came down to my son’s property after the tornadoes and you shook my hand and you told me if there was anything you could ever do for us that you would do it.
“We lost our six-year-old grandson in this storm. My son built his house and built a life for himself and now they’re being woken up at 5 o’clock in the morning, panicking, running to a storm shelter, because my 12-year-old grandson, in Margaret Brown’s eyes, is to blame for his own PTSD because he should have gotten out of his house when he had the chance when the tornado hit? That’s exactly what she told me …
“Why would you play sirens like that in 4 a.m. in an area that lost 23 lives?” Kidd said. “Twenty-three. My 12-yer-old grandson doesn’t remember that storm, he doesn’t remember anything about it. He was sucked out of his house and thrown into a field. He lost his brother that day and he almost lost his life. And the only thing he remembers is the noise. The noise.”
The noises are not a once-a-week deal, Cummings said, but every single night.
“We should have some rights too,” said another resident, Larry Bell.
Resident Bonnie Williams said she lives across the street from the neighbor in question, Brown.
“Everybody wants to live in the country, to listen to their music and enjoy the peace and quiet and you can’t even do that because of this person,” Williams said. “It’s ridiculous. And because of who he lives with, there’s nothing being done. And as far as I’m concerned, she’s just as guilty as he is because she owns the property, she’s there at the time this is being done.”
There is no noise ordinance currently in place for the county, which means that the Sheriff’s Department can’t take action against the neighbor in question.
Lee County Governmental Relations Coordinator Wendy Swann provided information to the commission about the Alabama Limited Self-Governance Act that “allowed counties through referendum approval to enact ordinances that address ‘health and safety issues’ such as noise, weeds, junkyards, animal control, littler, unsanitary sewage and pollution.”
However, the counties that have enacted noise ordinances have had little success, she said. Lee County has passed the act but has done nothing with it, Swann said.
Ham said that he would like to be the first county to find a solution and have it stick.
“We are [doing all that we can do], it’s just that we’re not in a position with the law as it’s currently written under public nuisance in the state of Alabama, we’ve been looking into it, we can’t take action as the law is currently written,” said Sheriff Jay Jones. “That’s our problem.”
Jones said that the Sheriff’s Department will cooperate and do what it can do provide relief in Beauregard.
The commissioners discussed options for how to deal with the noise complaints, and decided to set a work session to discuss potential options.
“Rather than just listen to what they’ve had to say and just move on to another item, I’d like us to start putting something in place to take some action on this,” said District 4 Commissioner Robert Ham.
Ham said that he has also invited state legislators to the meeting so that if state laws need to be changed in order to deal with creating a noise ordinance that can be done.
“My concern, now, is for the people who live out there who can’t live in peace and quiet, whether it’s coming from Margaret’s property, or it’s a rock quarry, or it’s industry, or somebody is disturbing these people,” Ham said in an interview with the Observer. “It’s part of what I do, my job is to listen to them and act on it. So I felt like that’s what we did last night. Very heartfelt stories from veterans, and from people who have been through the tornado.”
Ham said that if Brown wants to address her concerns with the commission and citizens at the work session, she is also welcome to attend and discuss the problems.
“My preference right now is to get the noise stopped and then we’ll work on these other issues,” Ham said. “And that would be the first thing with the negotiations with her.”
The work session will be held on April 19 at 5 p.m. in the Lee County Courthouse Commission chambers.
Margaret Brown offered official comment Wednesday morning: “I do not play music at all.”
- The county approved a request for an expense allocation increase for Coroner Bill Harris
- The county approved amid for air purifiers for the Lee County Sheriff’s Department
- The county approved a lounge retail liquor license application for Happy Hour
- The county approved an adopt-a-mile application for Lee Road 263
- The county approved an educational reimbursement request for a deputy sheriff for courses at Auburn University at Montgomery.