Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rules Regulating Ice Cream Trucks Don't Need to Be Changed, Council Says

By Christina Georgiou

To many Easton children, the sound of an ice cream truck coming is music to their young ears, but to some local adults, the constant jingles they play jangle their nerves.

Some citizens have recently complained about ice cream trucks' music being too loud and playing the same tunes repetitively, city council said Tuesday evening at its committee meeting. The city has sent out letters to the four licensed ice cream truck owners reminding them of city ordinances pertaining to their businesses, but there still may be a problem, members said.

Harold Figueroa, owner of Jerry's Ice Cream and
one of four city ice cream truck operators,
talks about his business practices at the
Easton City Council committee meeting
Tuesday evening. The city says it has
been fielding a number of complaints in
recent weeks about ice cream trucks playing
music too loudly and playing the same tunes
over and over again, annoying residents.
Harold Figueroa, owner of Jerry's Ice Cream, who was the only truck operator to attend the meeting, said he follows city ordinances faithfully, and if there is a problem, it's another mobile ice cream vendor, not him.

"Since 1996, I've only received three complaints," Figueroa said. "All you've got to tell me is, 'turn down the music.'"

Figueroa said that ice cream trucks need to play their jingles to alert potential customers, who are mostly children, that they're nearby. The tunes need to be loud enough for people to hear through closed windows and over running air conditioners too, he said.

He noted that he often donates half of his profits to local school and charitable events he's asked to bring his truck to, and even sometimes gives children on his routes credit or free ice cream when they don't have the money to buy a cone.

"Am I getting rich? No. I'm behind on my mortgage," Figueroa said, adding that because he has children he has trouble saying 'no'.

Figueroa said that when he stops, he usually turns the music down.

"You said that you turn it down, but do you ever turn it off?" Councilman Jeff Warren asked, saying that some of the complaints too indicated that some residents are annoyed by ice cream trucks that play the same tune over and over.

Figueroa said that he doesn't usually turn it off entirely, but he will if people ask him to. And, if the city council requires it in the future, he will.

"Tell me what you want me to do," he told city council members.

Figueroa said too that he changes his music from time to time, and will play other tunes when children request it.

"I've got 36 tunes on my box," he said.

"I want to know who's complaining," he added, saying that it's likely the complaints are about another ice cream vendor in the city. "We don't even come Downtown or go near the ice cream shops or the farmers' market. Everyone needs to make a living. We have routes where people stay and wait for us."

Council members and Mayor Sal Panto said they didn't want Jerry's Ice Cream to take the inquiry and discussion personally, especially since he was the only vendor present.

Breezy's, whose owner did not attend the city council
committee meeting discussing ice cream truck practices,
was seen cruising Downtown right after the meeting
Tuesday evening. It too plays short jingles via a
loudspeaker to attract potential customers.
 "It's not that we're targeting you. We got complaints and when we receive complaints, we look into it," Warren said. "It might be another company that's not respecting (city ordinances)."

City officials said Tuesday evening that more ordinances aren't needed to deal with the issue, instead agreeing to send another letter to all the city ice cream truck vendors reminding them of the rules.

If that isn't effective in quenching citizen complaints, the city will deal with the issue on a case-by-case basis, officials said.

Melody Rogers, who heads the South Side Civic Association, said Jerry's Ice Cream is a benefit to the neighborhood.

"I've seen so many times a kid goes up to him and says, 'Jerry, can I have an ice cream? Here's a dime,'" she said. "I'll tell you what, he's so dedicated to these kids."

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