Residents seek sound buffer at Mars school

October 9, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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ADAMS TWP — District residents Frank and Marcia Semper addressed Mars Area School Board Superintendent Wes Shipley and solicitor Thomas King about a sound issue at Tuesday night's meeting.

The Sempers live near Mars Elementary School and spoke to the board about handling the noise of the chiller system.

A chiller discards unwanted heat into the atmosphere from the building.

According to documented correspondence, the Sempers have been discussing the noise the chiller make with the district for more than a year.

“(It) seriously impacts the serenity of … residents,” Marcia said.

The Sempers, according to Marcia, have offered to contribute to the installation of a fence that would act as a sound barrier. The Sempers told the board they were concerned about the district's determination that such a project would be too expensive.

Shipley discussed a $20,000 quote the Sempers passed on to the district several months ago from BRD Noise and Vibration Control for a sound barrier fence. Shipley said when he contacted the company to verify the quote, he was told an effective fence would cost $65,000 to $70,000.

“The initial cost of only $20,000 would be ineffective for us,” Shipley said.

The district obtained a second quote from Vascar HVAC Solutions in Canonsburg. The company said a suitable fence would cost about $88,000.

“We've put a lot of time, energy and consideration (into this),” Shipley said.

As a solution, Shipley approached Mars vo-tech students who are taking shop this semester. Working with a “louvered” fence design, Shipley determined students could build a barrier fence for under $2,000 — the cost of materials.

The fence would be made of treated lumber and easily movable. The project would allow Mars students to use new tools and apply their skills to a real-life situation.

“It's a win-win for us,” Shipley said. “I don't want to give you the impression that these are last-ditch efforts.”

Shipley showed the Sempers a prototype of the fence Tuesday night.

Marcia said while she and her husband approve of the idea, they have two stipulations for the fence: It must be four-sided and two feet taller than the cooling system, and the district must consider BRD's proposal if the louvered fence doesn't work as expected.

Shipley, who visited the Sempers' home to see how loud the noise was, explained the unit meets township codes.

“We have been working with you,” Shipley said.

The fence can't be four-sided, according to Shipley, because workers need to have access to the unit. Shipley said the two side walls would be installed in areas closest to the Sempers' home.

“If it doesn't help … then unfortunately, we would just remove it,” Shipley said.

Shipley hopes to have the louvered fence in place this fall.

In the spring, the district plans to plant trees or shrubs to block some of the noise.

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