Fire siren debate focuses on county radio system
By Joe Beck
Gioia Pharo wasn't afraid to take a stand on a controversial issue when she spoke out against the noise from Strasburg's fire siren at a recent community meeting.
Now she's discovering that her two cents was an unexpectedly good investment for the yoga and pilates studio she operates around the corner from the fire station.
Some former students whom she hadn't seen in years decided to rejoin her classes again after seeing her name mentioned in a newspaper story about the meeting.
"I guess it's helped my business more than it hurt it," she said Wednesday. "People saw the name and came back to me."
The siren remains an annoyance for some of her students trying to calm their minds as they practice meditative techniques. Their concerns and those of neighbors complaining of migraine headaches, fibromyalgia and other discomforts led her to ask for some relief from the wailing.
"Loud noises do trigger those symptoms," Pharo said.
Despite the passion on both sides of the issue, Pharo said she hasn't met anyone who objected to her noise complaint.
"I don't put negativity out to the world, so I don't expect negativity to come back to me," she said in offering an explanation for why she hasn't heard more criticism of herself.
"I'm not part of the town gossip mill," she added.
Defenders of the siren contend that it is indispensable to alerting firefighters to an emergency when their pagers fail to go off. Others argue that the sound makes Strasburg a more distinctive and appealing place for those seeking small-town charm.
Pharo has been living with the siren since she opened her Yoga/Pilates Studio eight years ago after moving to Strasburg from Northern Virginia. Inner tranquility is her business and way of life, but she has not been able to reconcile herself to the high decibel levels that punctuate her days.
Her downstairs studio, with its spacious, polished wooden floors, is part of a two-story house she shares with her husband, a community college professor. It's a comfortable space for students such as Sue Golden, who is also a downtown businesswoman, a farmer and one of Pharo's clients.
Golden leaned back in a kitchen chair sipping a cup of tea as she talked about the obstacle the siren presented in trying to retain tenants in the nearby building she owns at 313 King St.
Golden said she lost two residents because of the siren and another one complains about the noise.
"I have a vacant apartment. I can't rent it out," she said.
Golden and Pharo said they both hope a way can be found to eliminate much or all of the noise from the siren, but they will have to wait a while longer to get their answer.
No decision will be made until the Fire Department board considers the comments taken at the community meeting. Fire Chief Jeff Wharton said Wednesday the department is still working on scheduling a meeting.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org