New head of O’Hare noise commission confronts reservations about her

SHARE New head of O’Hare noise commission confronts reservations about her

Mount Prospect Mayor Arlene Juracek was unanimously elected the new chair of the O’Hare Noise Compatibility Commission Friday, and immediately addressed concerns that she represents a village due for less noise under the ongoing O’Hare International Airport overhaul.

“I am fully aware “ of the “reservations about me” because Mount Prospect is receiving less jet noise since flight paths changed in 2013 and is due for even less once the O’Hare runway overhaul is completed, Juracek said.

However, she assured commission members that she has personally experienced jet noise – as a youngster in Niles and as a young married woman living near Cumberland and East River Road. Her daughter now lives near the Kennedy and will be impacted by future runways, Juracek said.

Juracek outlined a different vision for the commission — that all members be schooled on jet noise issues, rather than just subcommittee members. She said she will devote the May meeting to presentations about the “fly quiet” program and what other airports are doing to reduce jet noise.

Juracek replaces Arlene Mulder, the commission’s first and only previous chairman. Gov. Bruce Rauner has nominated Mulder, the former mayor of Arlington Heights, for a spot on the Illinois Racing Commission.

Frustration about the big switch in O’Hare flight paths, which have been sending new air traffic over areas east and west of O’Hare since fall 2013, bubbled over in several ways at Friday’s meeting.

January complaints to the city’s official O’Hare jet noise hotline hit a record 39,500, Chicago Department of Aviation Data showed.

Meanwhile, the developer of a citizen-created noise complaint website, Darrin Thomas, told the commission that the complaints that automatically forwards to the city’s official site have been so numerous that they have been “blowing up” the city’s site and spitting back error messages to senders.

Activity was especially heavy most days this week, Thomas said, with March 10 logging 18,019 beefs and March 11 racking up 15,489. His site has recorded more than 200,000 complaints in about two months, he said.

“At what point do the numbers become such that they can’t be ignored?” Thomas asked.

“Whether the number is 30,000 or 300,000, there is no target number,” Juracek said. “We know people are frustrated.”

Regina Jablonski, of Schiller Park, told the commission that since the big switch in flight paths, “my life has been miserable.” She said she can’t use any of her upstairs bedrooms to sleep because of overnight jet noise, Even during the day there is an onslaught, Jablonski said.

On March 11, a day the citizen website saw heavy activity, the constant barrage was so bad her neighbor went outside and counted the planes. The tally was more than 300 in two hours, she said.

Jablonski, who is close to retirement, says she wants to sell her house but “who is going to buy my house” now that it’s “under a runway. How much money did I lose because you created a runway over my house?”

Frank Lazzara, of Wood Dale, said noise monitors indicate his community is being hammered month after month with jet noise levels of at least 65 DNL, which qualifies homeowners for sound proofing if such an area falls within an official “noise contour.”

“Are there any repercussions or fines when the airlines go over 65 DNL?” Lazzara asked. “Are there any consequences at all?”

Responded one Chicago Department of Aviation official: “Fines are not an option at our airport.”

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