WESTFIELD, Mass. (The Westfield News) – Residents are invited to attend a public meeting Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the North Middle School to hear details about changes to the Westfield Barnes Regional Airport noise abatement program.
Airport Manager Brian Barnes said that the presentation will include an explanation of a new Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) noise contour map which identifies residents who are eligible for the noise abatement assistance program. The FAA is funding 95 percent of the noise mitigation program cost, with the state and city each funding 2.5 percent.
The FAA has modified the rules of the on-going noise mitigation initiated after F-15 fighter jets were moved from Otis Air Base on Cape Cod to the 104th Fighter Wind of the Massachusetts Air National Guard stationed at Barnes Regional Airport six years ago, replacing the A-10 ground support fighters, a much quieter airframe.
The noise mitigation program was initiated after a study of noise levels was conducted and boundaries based upon 70 and 65 decibels (dB) were established for the noise mitigation program for residents living near the airport.
“We have to update the map every four years,” Barnes said Monday. “The contours directly impact residents and there have been changes in some areas.”
Barnes said that a few areas are being dropped and a few areas added to the contour map. The noise abatement map has two contour lines, based upon noise decibel levels, which qualify residents living within that contour for federal assistance. One contour, the 70 dB contour, is located closest to the airport.
Residents in the 70 dB zone had the option of selling their homes, which would then be demolished. Those residents also had the option of noise mitigation measures to reduce the impact of the jets, which included replacement of window, doors, as well as adding insulation in the walls and central air conditioning to eliminate the need to open windows.
Residents living in the 65 dB zone are qualified for the noise buffering modifications to their homes.
Barnes said the focus of airport officials during the past few years has shifted to the 70 dB contour buyout phase of the noise abatement because of anticipation that the federal government is amending the levels of assistance.
“The program has changed too,” Barnes said. “That’s why we’re doing buyouts for the next couple of years. The program changes will impact everyone (in either dB contour).”
Barnes said the new criterion makes it more difficult to qualify for that full modification and that fewer people will qualify for the full modification.