BINGHAM – Pam Jollotta moved here about 20 years ago seeking the peace and quiet of a small town.
For the most part, she has enjoyed exactly that from her home on U.S. Route 201 and the Scenic Byway Laundromat, which she operates across the street.
But Jollotta and some other residents surrounding a temporary cement plant say that for the last several months, their neighborhood has been disrupted by the constant low rumbling at Sargent Materials, which was erected to help with the construction of a 56-turbine wind farm nearby and often operates early in the morning.
The Bingham Wind Project will include turbines in Bingham, Kingsbury Plantation and Mayfield Township. It is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
And while many residents have celebrated an increase in business and jobs in the area as construction continues, some, like Jollotta, say the increase in activity in an otherwise sleepy town has raised some concerns that previously did not exist.
TOWN HAS NO NOISE ORDINANCE
“I don’t want to see this happen in another town,” said Jollotta, 48, who is proposing that the town adopt a noise ordinance – something she said there was no need for before. “I have nothing bad to say about (the workers at the cement plant). They’re very courteous. But people can’t let this happen in their communities. We’re all so tired.”
Marsha Hovey and her son, Donovan Beane, who also live near the cement plant, said it has disrupted their lives, too.
“They start that thing up about 4 o’clock in the morning,” Hovey said. “It sounds like there are about 20 semi trucks sitting outside the window.”
Both Hovey and Jollotta said they contacted the town and were told that Bingham does not have a noise ordinance or any regulations about when machinery can be operated. They also said they were not notified last summer that the plant would be going in.
Tim Andrews, the town’s code enforcement officer, said that’s because there are no regulations in place that would require Sargent to get approval from the Planning Board or other town officials before setting up the temporary plant.
ONE COMPLAINT ADDRESSED
The site already was designated as a commercial area since the plant is operating on a former lumber yard now owned by the Anson-based construction company Bruce Manzer Inc.
Chad Comstock, general manager of Sargent Materials, based in Stillwater, said he did receive a complaint about noise from the cement plant around the time it arrived in town in August.
“We have really tried to be good neighbors,” said Comstock, who added that the noise levels are within U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations. “We pulled out an old generator that was noisy and rented a brand new, super-quiet one just to help ’em out.”
Hovey said the change has helped some, but the sound is still audible from her house. “It is loud,” agreed Dave Vermette, whose home on Route 16 is separated from the plant by a small stream and the road. “We hear it all the time, and the lighting seems to light up the whole block at night.”
Work at the plant often starts as early as 4:30 a.m., though the cement portion of the construction project probably will wrap up by the end of the month, weather permitting, Comstock said. The temporary cement plant employs about 12 people, and construction of the wind farm also has brought other workers to the area, he said.
“It’s really not that big of a deal,” said Erin Carrigan, who also lives near the plant and has a close-up view from her kitchen area window. “If anything, it’s brought industry and jobs to a very rural area where jobs in the winter can be hard to come by.”
“Is there noise? Yes, but is it insufferable? No,” said Carrigan, 42.
Sam Spaulding, a clerk at Williams’ General Store in front of the plant, said she routinely arrives at work around 5 a.m. and doesn’t notice the noise.
“Business has been crazy,” she said, attributing the boom to construction of the wind farm. “It’s been really good for business.”
John Lamontagne, a spokesman for wind farm developer SunEdison, said in an email that construction on the project is “progressing smoothly” and that the company expects it to be completed by the end of the year.
ANNUAL PAYMENTS FOR TOWNS
The town of Bingham and other surrounding communities also have entered into agreements with SunEdison through which they will be made annual payments that can be used for public purposes such as reducing property taxes or completing economic development projects. Under the agreement, Bingham will receive $106,900 per year for 20 years from the company, according to the Department of Environmental Protection’s permit for the project.
“It’s brought people to the town and brought business to the town,” Andrews said, adding that he doesn’t see a need for a noise ordinance in Bingham and that the town doesn’t have the resources to enforce it.
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