Air traffic noise got you down? There's a new way to lodge a complaint

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PITTSFIELD — The sound of a hovering helicopter and ringing phones go hand in hand for Donna Todd Rivers at this time of year.

"People are constantly talking about the noise from helicopters," said Rivers, ward 5 City Councilor.

The complaints have gone on for years, beginning in the summer and lapsing into the fall, she said. But the complaints, made to the mayor's office and the Pittsfield Municipal Airport too, often lacked the information needed to track down the source of the noise.

A new "report noise" form on the city's website is designed to change that.

Airport Manager Gloria Bouillon said the tracking form serves a dual purpose.

It will allow airport officials to better understand the type of noise and the aircraft that created it, which could pinpoint if there are prohibited aircraft landing at the airport. (Although she said the majority of recent noise complaints have been linked to helicopter training operations, which are allowed.)

She said the form also is designed to improve communication between the airport and residents.

The airport sees increased operations in the summer and fall. At the same time residents are opening windows during nice weather and spending more time outdoors. That means aircraft noise is also more noticeable, she said.

Most noticeable, it seems, are helicopters, which have prompted the majority of the complaints.

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Bouillon said the helicopters are piloted by members of the Air National Guard, who are training in the region's mountainous terrain.

"We are doing what we can to understand and describe training operations that take place," she said. "We want to build a good community relationship with our neighbors."

Rivers' Facebook page includes comments from residents about the noise being a long-reported nuisance that sometimes wakes their sleeping children.

The new "report noise" form, available on the airport page of the city's website, asks for a description of the type of aircraft and noise heard, the date and time it was witnessed, as well as a person's name and contact information.

Bouillon suggested people also report the color of the aircraft, which can help differentiate between military, police and medical uses.

In the past few months on the job, Bouillon said she has spent a chunk of time responding to the noise complaints. But first she often had to track down information about the individual who reported it.

Centralized information will make the process more efficient and help her identify the source of the noise faster, she said.

Rivers said she is "thrilled" the form is available to the public.

"Gloria took these concerns seriously and put a protocol into action," Rivers said. "And that's what we want to see."

Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo.


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