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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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NOISE ABATEMENT. In 1974 the Dubuque City Council passed a noise abatement ordinance with regulations split into two ordinances. The vehicular noise regulations would be enforced by the police department. The regulations dealing with neighborhood, business and industrial noises were the concern of the health department. Enforcement could begin with a complaint or police officers observing a violation. Violators were subject to a maximum fine of $100 or 30 days in jail. The ordinance allowed cars and vehicles with a gross weight under 6,000 pounds a decibel level (dBA) of 78 from a sound meter 25 feet away. Motorcycles and larger trucks were allowed 86. For comparison, the rustle of a leaf was (15), average conversations (66) heavy traffic (80) pneumatic drill (100) and a jet taking off was 120. In the second area of regulations, noise levels could not exceed the following: residential areas (55 during the day and 45 at night), business areas, business areas (60 during the day and 50 at night), industrial areas (65 during tye day and 55 at night. (1)

An article in the Telegraph Herald in April, 1978 noted that noise complaints in Dubuque peaked in spring and summer-mostly for noisy vehicles. (2)

In 1977 loud cars accounted for 161 citations in Dubuque. Of those arrested, 73% did not pay a fine because they had their mufflers replaced. In 1978 the DUBUQUE POLICE DEPARTMENT had one sound meter. Officers could also make arrests based on their judgment. A program was planned to improve the hearing judgment of the officers. It was also felt that the best ordinances applied one standard to cars, motorcycles, and trucks. Two standards required officers to be able to know the difference between 78 dBA and 86dBA. (3)

In February 1979, Lucy Connor became Dubuque's community noise counselor. Raising the community's awareness, Connor began in the schools working to increase students' awareness of the health problems, including heart disease and ulcers associated with loud noise.

Connor convinced the city to post six signs reminding people to avoid creating loud noise and businesses to operate their vehicles on routes that avoided residential neighborhoods. The effectiveness of the program was seen in the issuance by the police department, during the first six months of 1982, of five hundred citations for violations of Dubuque's noise ordinance. This was compared to a similar number over the previous three years. The position was to be eliminated at the end of September 1982, when the federal government would no longer fund the office of Noise Abatement and Control.

The person in charge of the local Office of Noise Abatement was Lucy C. Connor who served from 1979 to 1983. (4) She convinced businesses to have their drivers take different routes, went to individual homes go advise them about barking dogs, convinced the city to post signs reminding citizens of excessive noise, and visited schools to educate children. (5)

In 1990 noise on Central Avenue led the PTA at FULTON ELEMENTARY SCHOOL to purchase six amplification systems including microphones the teachers wore while speaking in class and speakers so that students could hear them. The first systems were installed in classrooms close to the street. The PTA was exploring the possibility of purchasing eight more after raising the money. (6) Such amplification systems were later used throughout the District. (7)



1. Fyten, David. "City Offers Noise Abatement," Telegraph Herald, March 15, 1974, p. 1

2. Kircher, Steve. "Noise: Ruination of Neighborhood," Telegraph Herald, April 6, 1978, p. 1

3. Ibid.

4. Obituary. Telegraph Herald, April 5, 2000, p. 14

5. Hendricks, Mike. "Noise Counseling Quietly Fades from Dubuque," Telegraph Herald, September 6, 1982, p. 2

6. Hanson, Lyn. "Panel Hears Amplification System," Telegraph Herald, August 24, 1990, p. 2

7. Lyon, Randolph, a teacher at Hoover Elementary School who used the amplification system with classes having students with hearing difficulties.