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Letter from Bonner: Stop, hey, what's that sound?

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Noise continues to be the talk of Bonner, but not all sounds echo equally off the canyon walls.

As redevelopment at the defunct lumber mill continues, it's a seemingly placid bitcoin-mining server farm, more even than a Slayer show, that's putting a ring in residents' ears, according to those who attended a recent community meeting.

Members of the Bonner-Milltown Community Council debriefed with Logjam Presents owner Nick Checota about the concert promoter's inaugural season at the new KettleHouse Amphitheater, which concluded in August, before turning to unresolved concerns about sound pollution from the adjacent server farm.

Checota's company built the amphitheater with the neighborhood in mind, sinking the stage into a river-facing slope and installing a series of berms to block sound. Bonner residents told Checota at the Oct. 9 meeting that the design works—perhaps too well.

"I even tried to listen for Pat Benatar, too," said Laurie Ginn, who lives behind nearby Bonner School. "Kudos to you for doing a good job for our neighborhood."

Checota said his staff took sound readings in the surrounding area during shows. While his venue caps show volume at just over 100 decibels, Checota says his team recorded volumes of 60 decibels at the venue entrance and only 10 decibels at the closest neighborhood street.

In the other direction, though, a resident who told Checota she lives up the Blackfoot said the shows seemed increasingly loud as the summer progressed, with the final show being the biggest disturbance. Slayer closed out the amphitheater's season.

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"If it gives you any solace, I don't have any metal show offers in so far this year," Checota said, offering to look into the issue.

At the end of his presentation, Checota told the group that the mill site owners, Steve Nelson and Mike Boehme, had sought his advice on how to reduce noise emanating from the bitcoin mine run by tenant Project Spokane.

"It's doable for sure," Checota said. "Sound material can deaden that whole building. It's expensive, but it's doable."

But neither owners or tenants have yet taken action to address the noise, which County Commissioner Jean Curtiss compared in June to a jet engine winding up for take-off, according to the Missoulian.

Mike Heisey, who does maintenance for the mill owners, attended the meeting to field questions. "I called Project Spokane. I said, can you come with me to help with this discussion? They said, 'we're busy.'"

Heisey said the sound that suffuses the canyon comes from air chop caused by fans installed at the top of the warehouse to dissipate heat generated by computer servers. He said the company consulted a sound engineer who suggested reconfiguring in a way that would reduce air chop by 15 percent, but that the plan is still in development.

"It seems to be a tough deal," Heisey said. "Steve [Nelson] is working on it. He's as concerned as anyone. He gets some feedback himself, so he's definitely motivated. He wants the best for the community as well."

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