Helena adopts new noise ordinance

Published 3:37 pm Friday, July 18, 2008

On June 16, the Helena City Council enacted a new noise ordinance to address citizens’ complaints about loud radios and televisions.

“We had a noise ordinance formerly, but it was not very strict,” said Capt. Tim Carter of the Helena Police Department.

The old ordinance only provided for noise violations between the hours of midnight and 9 a.m. During the rest of the day, police were unable to respond to complaints about noise because the original ordinance didn’t grant them that ability, Carter said.

“Say it was 10 a.m. and your next door neighbor had their radio so loud you could hear every word. We as the police could not do anything about it,” he said.

The old ordinance also made it hard for outside laborers, such as construction workers, to start working before 9 a.m.

“We started seeing problems right off with the old ordinance because of construction workers and the machines they need,” Carter said.

Now, the ordinance provides for noise violations, including playing radios or televisions loud enough to be heard outside a business, house or vehicle, between the hours of midnight to 7 a.m. That time frame allows outside workers to begin their jobs after 7 a.m. instead of having to wait until 9 a.m.

The ordinance also gives police officers the ability to respond to complaints the rest of the day.

“I live almost a quarter of a mile off of Highway 47, and I can hear the vehicle radios from 47 in my house,” Carter said. “That’s the kind of complaints we see and the kind of noise we’re talking about.”

Carter said while police are patrolling between the hours of midnight and 7 a.m. they will be on the lookout for noise violations. The rest of the day, they will chiefly work off citizen complaints.

Under the ordinance, all violations are subject to a fine of $500. Beyond that, judges also have the option to sentence offenders to jail for up to 30 days.

Carter said the ordinance was completely in response to the citizens.

“We get a great number of complaints, and that’s why they wanted to change the ordinance,” he said. “We were getting complaints with no way to deal with it. We didn’t have the legal authority to get a complaint and go to the door and say, ‘Hey, people are complaining.’ Now we do.”