NARRAGANSETT — The town council approved an amendment on Monday evening which changes the town’s noise ordinance to account for auditory disturbances caused by motorcycles. Narragansett Police Department has found it increasingly difficult to enforce noise created by illegal exhaust systems on motorcycles which drive through public, tourist-driven areas of town, such as Ocean Road and along the sea wall.
“Our ordinance requires a noise meter to be used to measure decibel levels, which is very difficult for us [regarding motorcycle noise],” said Police Chief Dean Hoxsie. “East Greenwich is using this ordinance effectively, particularly at the waterfront.”
“It sets a reasonable limit on noise to the ear, from motorcycles, cars, or wherever it is coming from, and gives us more flexibility to enforce the issues anywhere there is a prevalence of noise,” he added.
The ordinance defines excessive vehicular noise as, “any sound or noise emanating from any vehicle(s) in motion, parked, or standing on any streets, land parcels, or properties, public or private, within the Town of Narragansett, plainly audible to a person of reasonably sensitive hearing at a distance of 200 feet from its source.”
The ordinance also states that, “‘plainly audible’ means any sound which clearly can be heard…from the source of the sound and crosses a property boundary line or boundary between two dwelling units,” and furthermore, “words or phrases need not be discernable and said sound shall include base reverberation.”
Hoxsie cited that owners of motorcycles, namely Harley-Davidson models, have modified their exhaust systems illegally. The amendment applies to any vehicle which does not have a factory-installed or approved muffler system. Hoxsie and Town Council President Glenna Hagopian responded to one member of the audience who questioned the amendment because Rhode Island already has laws which punish such violators.
“[The amendment] allows us to collect fines and go thru our municipal court system,” said Hagopian. “To the extent that our police department issues a citation, we are, as a town, able to recover fines. If we do not have these ordinances in place, they would be dealt with as a traffic infraction.”
“The issue is that an after-market pipe on these motorcycles is not often identifiable to an officer,” said Hoxsie. “[In order to] charge someone for having an altered exhaust, it has to be something obvious, and that law is already on the books. The noise from that motorcycle or other vehicle is what we are dealing with.”
Members of the town council were supportive of the amendment, which passed unanimously.
“What we are doing is codifying something that is illegal anyways according to state laws,” said Councilman Christopher Wilkens. “Modified pipes are the ones you can hear which make you pass a kidney stone. They are the real bad ones here, and nobody is going after a normal motorcycle.”
Other items which the town council approved collectively relating to law enforcement were a new voice-over IP/Digital Phone System for the police department, and a new 2011 Ford E-250 Cargo Van for the Police Detective Division, totaling $33,474.
“In 2004, we purchased the existing cargo van, which wasn’t the vehicle we needed or wanted at the time, but that is what we got,” said Hoxsie. “It has 2,000 miles on it. We have need for a van, but not that big of a vehicle.”
Hoxsie plans to give the old vehicle to the Water and Wastewater Division of the Engineering Department, and funding for the new vehicle’s purchase will be derived solely from federally allocated drug forfeiture monies.
“Water and Wastewater is looking for a vehicle that fits into the budget,” said Hoxsie. “We are trying to save tens of thousands of dollars instead of going to bid for a new vehicle. [Town Engineer Jeffry Ceasrine] can use this. We have a little over $50,000 in the forfeiture fund after this, so it is not really costing us anything and it does not increase our fleet size.”
The town council also passed a motion to adopt a resolution which appeals to the General Assembly for an increase in polling place capacities. The Rhode Island Board of Elections has recently requested that the current limitation of 1,900 voters per polling place be extended to 4,000. Narragansett currently has 11 voting districts, and the increase in voters allowed at each polling place would bring that number down to six.
“The request has passed in the House, where all were in favor, but has yet to go to the Senate,” said Town Clerk Anne M. Irons. “The increase would save the town a substantial amount of money.”
In Narragansett, the reduction in polling places will save the town $6,300 per election. The motion passed unanimously.