MILLSTADT — A $30,000 gift from a parishioner -- an electronic chimes that musically controls a bell in the steeple -- caused concern among residents who live close to Zion Evangelical Church at the corner of White and Monroe streets.
Jean Vickers said it's not that she is against hearing sacred or hymnal music. She said hearing hymns is one of the reasons she attends Sunday services at the 350-member Protestant church in the heart of Millstadt. But she said she doesn't like hearing several minutes of electronically controlled music each hour from 8 a.m. until 9 p.m. every day of the week.
"Everybody has the right to have peace," said Vickers, whose home is less than a hundred feet from the church. "Hearing that 24/7 is a bit much."
Church Pastor Darrell Weber said that not playing the musical minutes each hour from morning until night would be dishonoring the gift made in May by a church family, replacing a chiming system broken years ago. The new machine, called a Carillon bellchime system, was installed in November.
"They make a $30,000 gift to the church and you pull the plug on it, that's a betrayal to the gift," Weber said
On Friday, when the church's bells tolled the hour at 10 a.m. and then cut into music, a reporter sitting in Weber's office in the church could barely hear the music. But outside it came through loud and clear, although neither Weber nor the reporter recognized the tune, which sounded like Christmas music.
Another resident near the church, Dianne Blakely, said her husband -- who works at night and sleeps during the day -- doesn't mind the tolling of the hours, but the music that follows wakes him up.
But Dave Skaer, who lives next door a bit closer to the steeple, said, "I've been hearing this in some form or another for years. When we were kids we used it to tell time. I've got no problem with the music."
Millstadt Police Lt. Alan Hucke, who took a formal complaint from a resident concerning the hourly church tunes, said about five or six residents have come to the department to complain. However, he said the matter is out of the jurisdiction of the village police, mainly because a local ordinance excludes churches from noise abatement laws.
Hucke said he called the Illinois Pollution Control Board and was told that residents who objected to the hourly sounds can make an online complaint. What would follow is a state investigation where a measuring device can be used to determine if the noise might violate a state law.
Weber, the church pastor, said that members of his church have checked the decibel level within a two-block radius and found it to be between 70 and 75 decibels.
State tolerances for decibel levels involve many factors, such as distance and duration of the sound and whether it is part of a manufacturing process. However, an online source gave these decibel measurements for some common noise makers:
* Snare drums played hard at 6 inches -- 150 decibels.
* Jack hammer at one meter -- 120 decibels.
* Heavy truck traffic -- 90-110 decibels.
* Power tools -- 110 decibels.
* Average office noise -- 50 decibels
In a news release, Weber stated that the church received "numerous complaints from one family living a block away," who demanded the church stop playing the music on the hour.
"The church considers this request to be unreasonable and the gentleman was told he should pursue that action if he felt it necessary," the statement said.
Millstadt Mayor Weldon Harber, whose office is about a block from the church, said he can clearly hear the music of the bells each hour.
"I like hearing it," he said.
Harber resides about a mile away, he said, and cannot hear the music at that distance.
Contact reporter George Pawlaczyk at email@example.com or 618-239-2625.