Panel sets stage for sound limits on Bourbon Street _lowres

Advocate staff file photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- Musicians and supporters raillied and then stormed New Orleans City Hall in January 2014 in protest of the French Quarter proposed noise ordinance.

Although the City Council’s latest debate over loud music and its impact on New Orleans neighborhoods ended last year with no new rules being adopted, the city is moving forward with plans to develop new policies and educational materials and to train staff members to enforce the regulations that already are on the books.

That process will be overseen by Monica Hammer, a sound consultant and environmental lawyer who has co-authored papers on the health effects of excessive noise.

Hammer’s proposal to begin that work was selected by a committee of city employees Thursday as the best fit for the project, beating out another consultant who has advised the City Council on sound issues during its debates in recent years.

Hammer’s job will largely consist of training Health Department employees and developing educational materials to inform residents about the health effects of noise and ways they can protect themselves, Health Director Charlotte Parent said. That will allow the Health Department eventually to bring noise monitoring, enforcement and education in-house, she said.

The training and procedures Hammer creates will be in accordance with city ordinances, either those in effect now or new ones approved down the line, Parent said.

As efforts to craft a new sound ordinance crumbled last year, one area of agreement between the two sides was that the responsibility for handling sound issues should be taken from the New Orleans Police Department, which has handled those complaints for three decades, and given back to the Health Department.

Hammer’s hiring would be one of the first steps in the process of creating an office that would deal with environmental health and noise issues.

Hammer’s proposal came out on top against a competing offer from David Woolworth, who served as the council’s expert on sound issues during the debate over a proposed ordinance to tighten regulation on sound levels at bars and nightclubs.

Those looking for stricter noise regulations largely saw Woolworth as being in the opposing camp, and on several occasions he argued that the proposed rules would be too restrictive.

During Thursday’s evaluation session, committee members praised Woolworth’s knowledge of the city and his ability to research the issues, but they said his proposal was focused on the city’s schools and not issues in the French Quarter and Marigny, two hot spots of tension over sound issues.

Hammer, who does not live in New Orleans, got high marks for her background in environmental health and her previous experience dealing with sound issues in Chicago.

The Health Department will begin negotiating with Hammer over a contract, though the exact price tag of her services is uncertain.

The full bid packages and the scoring sheets used by the committee were not made available Thursday.

Follow Jeff Adelson on Twitter, @jadelson.