School officials vow to deal with Daylis noise complaints


Ed Kemmick/Last Best News

A huge new scoreboard and video display — complete with a new sound system — was installed this summer at Daylis Stadium.

In response to neighborhood complaints about loud music during football games and practices at Daylis Stadium, School District 2 officials are promising to be “responsible and responsive.”

In a “Good Neighbor Plan” drafted by Mark Wahl, athletic director for Billings Public Schools, the district pledges to take steps to minimize sound outside the stadium during games, and to use separate, smaller sound equipment for practices.

The plan also says the district will not use the sound system for early-morning events at Daylis, will instruct outside groups that use the stadium to limit noise, will disable the sound and video display system in the winter and will keep in touch “with some of our trusted neighbors” for input and advice on the district’s efforts.

“We think we worked pretty hard on this,” School Superintendent Terry Bouck said.

On Monday, Bouck sent School District 2 trustees an email containing the Good Neighbor Plan and a summary of the issue titled “Complaint Regarding Noise at Daylis Stadium.”

In that summary, he referenced an article posted on Last Best News on Nov. 21, in which several nearby residents complained about increased noise levels at the stadium after a new scoreboard with video display, as well as a new sound system, was installed at Daylis over the summer. The stadium is just east of Billings Senior High, at Grand Avenue and Third Street West.

Bouck also told trustees that he met last week with Wahl, Senior High Principal Jeff Uhren, School Resource Officer Mitch Hilyard and Police Capt. R.D. Harper “to discuss ways to mitigate the noise at Daylis Stadium.”

After that meeting, Wahl drafted the Good Neighbor Plan. Bouck said he and Wahl “will provide a follow-up and new information regarding this issue” when the School Board meets on Dec. 18.

Bouck said that the plan is not something the School Board has to approve or sign off on. He will present the plan for informational purposes, he said.

Here is the full text of the Good Neighbor Plan:

The Billings Public Schools are committed to being good neighbors, responsible and responsive of appropriate noise levels from Daylis Stadium. Therefore the following steps will be taken to address the complaints from some of our neighbors:

♦ We will keep a decibel meter on site to periodically check noise levels and make adjustments as needed.

♦ We will continue our communication with Daktronics and other sound experts to help keep us advised on speaker placement and possible adjustments for quality sound in stadium with minimal/reduced levels outside of stadium (maintaining quality event atmosphere, while respecting surrounding community).

♦ We will use smaller, alternative sound equipment for practices that will limit sound projection outside of the stadium.

♦ We will not turn on the sound system for music during early morning events such as dance, football, or track practices or other community events.

♦ We will work hard to communicate sound and display expectations to outside groups who use the facility (State Games, Special Olympics, Relay for Life, etc.).

♦ We will continue to clearly communicate expectations to coaches, sponsors, or other event coordinators using the facility (appropriate music, sound settings, appropriate training/approved staff/community operating system).

♦ We will disable the sound/display system during the winter off-season.

♦ We will consult lighting and display experts on a regular basis to make sure we minimize light spillage from field lights and display board.

♦ We will keep in contact with some of our trusted neighbors to get input/advice on how they feel things are going around the stadium — noise, lights, parking, etc.

Police Chief Rich St. John said the Police Department got involved because a complaint about the noise was made to the department. St. John noted that city noise ordinances include an exemption for events in stadiums like Daylis.

So the Good Neighbor Plan, he said, “is a really, really good gesture by the school district.”

Daktronics, mentioned in the plan, is the company that installed the sound system. Wahl said consultants with the company told him it wouldn’t be possible to change the configuration of the speakers, but Wahl is still not sure that couldn’t be done if necessary. The hope is that other measures to reduce the noise outside the stadium will be just as effective, Wahl said.

Bouck and Wahl also acknowledged that while they promise to continue using decibel meters to check noise levels, they don’t know yet exactly what the best level of sound is.

“I do think it’s important that we find reasonable levels,” Bouck said.

There are other tweaks that need to be made, Bouck said, such as trying to make sure recorded music is not being played while the band is performing. There are also variables involved in sound levels, including the nature of the device that is plugged into the system.

“It’s all a process of figuring out how to run it correctly,” he said.

Some adjustments were made during the final weeks of the football season, when the complaints came to his attention, Bouck said, and one neighbor who complained about loud game-day music thanked Wahl at the next game for turning the sound down.

Those are the kind of neighbors the district wants to work with as it continues fine-tuning the sound and light systems, Bouck said.

“I want to be in touch with people who are reasonable and care about our kids,” he said.

The only neighbor mentioned by name in the email to trustees was Jerry Kessler, who retired five years ago after working as a teacher and counselor at Senior High for 40 years. He’s lived at 237 Ave. B for 38 years, close enough to throw a football from his front stoop to the bleachers on the east side of the stadium.

Kessler, who has spoken with Wahl and Bouck about the noise at Daylis, said he was encouraged by the Good Neighbor Plan but remains a bit skeptical, afraid that the district will make minimal adjustments to sound levels and then blame neighborhood “curmudgeons” who just can’t be satisfied.

He also said he wants people to understand that while game-night noise is a problem, the real issue is the loud music during practice every afternoon for three months in the fall.

“We’ll see if the new speaker approach works,” he said.

For Kessler, the solution is simple.

“If they would turn it down to the level it’s been for the past three decades, it would solve the problem,” he said. “Like I said, I guess we’ll have to wait and see, but this does seem to be progress. For that, I am grateful.”

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