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Mystic - Three police officers visited the Richmond Lane home of 15-year-old Mason Fusaro Thursday afternoon to see just how much noise his dirt bike makes, and if his neighbors have a case in asking the town to make him stop riding.
Based on one particular noise control statute, it appeared on Thursday afternoon that Mason was within the legal limits. But Stonington Police Capt. Jerry Desmond said that this was only "one factor" in a complicated issue that remains unresolved.
The neighborhood controversy began last week, when several neighbors urged police and town officials to stop Mason from riding his dirt bike around the 2-acre property, owned by Mason's mother, Karen Fusaro, and her parents, Donald and Eleanor Weber. Neighbors said the noise is making their lives miserable.
They asked the Stonington Board of Police Commissioners either to charge Mason and his family with a crime or enact some type of ordinance to keep him from riding. One neighbor presented the board with a 32-signature petition asking the town to address the problem.
Desmond said Thursday afternoon that police would be measuring how much noise the bike makes when it is idle - the subject of a state statute that the officers said allows the source to peak at a certain decibel level above the ambient noise level.
Desmond said this statute is the only one so far that can be clearly applied to this case, and only when the bike is idling.
Desmond earlier told the complaining residents that the activity does not appear to fall under such crimes as breach of peace, disorderly conduct or creating a public disturbance, as the boy's intent may not be to cause such a disturbance. The town has a nuisance ordinance, but it bans unreasonably loud or disturbing noise only at night.
"I don't expect this to be anything, just sitting here like this," he said, observing the bike as it idled.
If it turns out Mason is not violating any laws, Desmond said, it will be up to neighbors and the town to create an ordinance or zoning law that specifically deals with the issue.
First Selectman Ed Haberek said last week that the town is looking at a New London ordinance that could be enacted here.
Just after 4 p.m. on Thursday, two police officers - one from New London and one from Stonington - arrived at the house at 12 and 16 Richmond Lane as scheduled to take a sound level measurement. Desmond joined them a little later.
Mason sat waiting on his red-and-white Honda CRF 150 in his driveway while the two officers prepared to do the sound test, his face obscured by a large helmet that matched the bike. Wearing a brown sweatshirt, dark jeans and black hiking boots, Mason jiggled his leg occasionally while he waited, alternately stuffing his hands in his pockets or running his fingers along the bike.
Several times, he revved up his bike impatiently.
The officers examined the bike, one using a flashlight, asking Mason a few questions - Had he modified the muffler at all? (No.) Was it his only bike? (Yes.)
In the meantime, they reassured him.
"We're just trying to resolve the issue so that we can move on and you can move on," one officer told him.
On hand were Karen Fusaro and Mason's 12-year-old sister, Madison, as well as a few supportive neighbors.
"At this point, I just want all of this to end," Fusaro said, adding that her son has been riding since he was 3, and that it has only recently become an issue.
The two officers used an Extech Sound Level Meter to measure the bike's noise as it idled, and had him loop around the yard a couple of times, though the noise made during this ride wouldn't fall under the statute. Mason obliged, tearing up clods of turf and leaving a small cloud of dirt in his wake. From the opposite side of the yard, the engine emitted a dim rumble; up close, the sound was akin to a lawnmower.
Soon afterward, as if it had been planned, a motorcycle with a formidable engine roar raced down Hewitt Street half a block away. Karen Fusaro gestured exasperatedly in the direction of the noise, monstrous by comparison.
Desmond said the next step will be to speak with prosecutors and "see where things are" in terms of what other laws may apply to the situation.
"We're not jumping out of the bushes at people," he said. "We're not running around and arresting anyone. We're just trying to take this one step at a time."