After reviewing a study measuring sound volumes at a controversial gun club, the Dawson County commission last week voted to erect some barriers near the noisiest areas.
The sound study, which began in January and lasted about four months, included eight locations around Etowah Valley Sporting Clays in southeastern Dawson.
County Engineering Director Corey Gutherie oversaw the effort, which was part of a July 2011 settlement with Richard Becker, owner of the gun club.
As part of the deal, which followed five years of legal wrangling over noise from gunfire, the county awarded Becker $275,000, up to $150,000 of which would go toward noise abatement measures.
According to the report conducted by Hansen Consulting, the main goals of the sound study included: measuring sound levels at nearby homes and other "noise sensitive areas" and testing shooters at single stations to identify which produce the highest sound levels.
The study also undertook additional measurements to "expand the knowledge of the sound environment." In addition, Gutherie said much time was spent discussing the range with neighbors.
The results of the study were used to determine the sound mitigation efforts.
"It's a matter of perception for the most part," Gutherie said. "It is still a nuisance to some folks, but the results show dogs barking, birds chirping, children playing in the park or cars rolling by actually end up being louder than some noises from the [gun] park. It's a matter of who you talk to."
Gutherie said Tuesday that preparations have begun to put some walls and shrubbery in. The project will cost an estimated $60,000, up from earlier projections of $50,000.
That cost is in addition to the $24,000 budgeted for a certified sound expert. Still, the measures are significantly below the $150,000 in the settlement.
Commissioner James Swafford pointed out that while the "white noises" may be louder, guns can be more alarming.
"I think the real issue is not that the guns are that much louder, but that we don't get used to that noise like others," he said.
Gutherie said the sound barriers should be completed in the next month. The next step will be a follow-up sound study.
Commissioner Gary Pichon said residents should not expect all the noise to go away.
"It's my understanding, having read the report, that the sound study results believe we can abate the sounds to some degree, but that we aren't going to create a silent gun shooting range," he said.
"But the measures are looking at five, maybe 10 decibels and that 10-decibel move is about half, so we can expect significant reduction."
Gutherie hopes the measures will be cost- and noise-effective.
"We will be able to document that reduction in the second study," he concluded.