HAZLET – A large number of frustrated Hazlet Youth Athletic League (HYAL) parents and players gathered at a Township Committee meeting Tuesday to demand relief from neighbors’ constant complaints about the volume of their public address system.
HYAL volunteers say the nonprofit club at Hazlet Avenue, located near the train station, has already responded by dialing down the decibel level to well below the state requirement and moving speakers to the point fans can hardly hear the calls. But the press box continues to receive regular visits from police officers on behalf of local complainants who say the speakers are way too loud.
At a friendly football game to benefit a breast cancer awareness charity Sunday, football announcer Paul Miano said he switched the microphone off entirely to avoid further visits from police and the possibility of being fined –putting a damper on the fundraiser.
“We have made our concessions,” football commissioner Scott Goldsberry told elected officials, regarding the five or six occasions in the fall season when they employ a microphone. “We have lowered the decibel levels, we’ve cut them in half. We’ve taken the speakers from the top to the floor, and these are speakers that are in the plans for the press box.”
But behind the elevated press box, and past a wooded area, two neighbors living in houses on Holmdel Road say they can still hear the broadcasts loud and clear, even with their windows shut.
“We’ve never objected to the kids having a good time,” said Bob Rose, whose family has lived in the house on Holmdel Road since 1944. “My number one complaint is the volume of the PA system, the loudspeaker system.” He said when the Hawks are playing, he can expect to be awakened at 9 a.m. on Sunday mornings and hear the games throughout the day.
Jennifer Grenger, his neighbor, has lived in her home for 19 years. “My concern is I am jolted out of my bed at 8:51 a.m. by someone shouting ‘Hazlet Hawks!’” she said. She described caring for her husband, who is homebound for medical reasons. “That is our life, and our home is our safe place. And we just want to keep the inside of our home ours, and that’s all we want.”
Police Chief Philip Meehan came to the meeting and spoke to the crowd about the noise complaints, which he said have been reported since 2018. He explained what happens when a noise complaint is called in to police.
It doesn’t matter if one or several resident calls, he said. A police officer will typically respond by visiting the complainant’s location first to take note of the noise before going to visit the source and ask for the noise to be reduced. “Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the noise level is reduced, the officers depart, without any enforcement. It’s very rare an officer has to come back when compliance isn’t done, and they have the right to issue an enforcement action,” said Meehan, who has worked for Hazlet Police for 30 years. Meehan also addressed a rumor circulating on social media that HYAL had been issued a summons. Not true, he said. No summonses or fines have been issued.
Mayor Scott Aagre also addressed misinformation by stating the township mayor does not have control over police operations and that there was “no shutdown” of the sound system by police on Sunday.
Christine Goldsberry, football snack bar commissioner, pleaded with officials to weigh HYAL’s contribution as a positive force in the community against the complaints of a handful of neighbors, whom they have been unable to satisfy. “If someone considers it a nuisance, where does it stop? What if people start calling on Raritan? I mean, I hear football games every weekend,” she said.
On Thursday night a meeting will be held at Town Hall with the mayor and a few elected officials, HYAL administration, the police chief and the neighbors to try to find a way to resolve the issue for HYAL and the people in the community. Deputy Mayor Mike Glackin suggested the discussion could include the township potentially funding a suitable sound system for the nonprofit club.
Chief Meehan asked all to come with the goal of finding a solution. “If there is going to be any positive progress, you have to be open-minded,” he said.