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Church told its bell is too loud

PHILADELPHIA, Sept. 9 (UPI) -- A Philadelphia church was told its 7 a.m. bell was too loud and could lead to a $700 daily fine if it violated the city's noise ordinance, the pastor said.

St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church received a letter from Philadelphia's enforcement officer for air and noise pollution saying the bell could not ring louder than "5 decibels above background level measured at the property boundary of the nearest occupied residential property."

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The letter, which focuses on the 18 times the 5,000-pound bronze bell rings at 7 a.m. for the Angelus devotion, followed an anonymous phone call the 179-year-old church got from a woman who said she lived a block away.

"I will never forget this," church Business Manager Rosemary Swider said of the call in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. "She said the bell was disrupting her quality of life."

The bell was installed as part of a clock tower in 1906, long before the city's 2006 noise ordinance was passed. It was broken and out of commission for nearly three years but was fixed in January and began to toll again from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Jim Verdin of Verdin Bell Co., which repaired the clock, told the newspaper the bell "could be carved out" to reduce the volume.

The Rev. James A. Lyons, pastor of St. John's, said unless city or archdiocesan officials say otherwise, the bell will "keep ringing."

"A bell's a bell -- it either rings or it doesn't," he said.

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