BEAUMONT, Texas — For more then 50 years the sound of the bells from First United Methodist Church Groves have floated across this small Southeast Texas town.
The bells, now a digital recording run by computer, sound dutifully every three hours, four times daily, starting at 9 a.m.
To many in Groves the sound of the bells are just another part of life but to one neighbor of the church they are a nuisance.
The neighbor has previously complained about the bells and church officials twice lowered the volume of the pealing that happens seven days a week at 9 a.m., Noon, 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.
On Wednesday, October 14, 2020, the, so far unidentified, neighbor went to the Groves Police Department and officially swore out a noise complaint.
Church officials say they've never received such a complaint from the community.
If found guilty the church could face a fine of up to $500.
“I was, just like a lot of people, kind of surprised,” said Pastor George Wilson who has been with the church for about three months.
For most neighbors, including the Canizales family across the street, the bells aren't an issue at all.
“I like it during Christmas time because they play Christmas music,” said Trevor Corley.
“We love it. We sit outside and just listen to it. It's relaxing,” added Johnny Canizales.
But to one neighbor, the bells are loud, raucous and interfere with public peace and comfort making it a possible violation of the city's noise ordinance.
Doye Tomplait, a FUMC Groves representative, who has been a member of the church for more than 40 years, took to Facebook with the help of his daughter to get the word out.
Kim Tomplait Coker posted her dad's message late Wednesday night and by Thursday evening it had been shared more than 500 times.
The church has hired a lawyer to represent them at a hearing at Groves Municipal Court at 1:30 p.m. on October 27, 2020 according to Tomplait.
The nearby cities of Port Arthur and Nederland both exempt church bells from their noise ordinances, but that's not the case in Groves.
"The noise ordinance in Groves is probably 40 years old and it’s never been updated. That particular portion has never been dealt with so it’s an oversight and maybe it should’ve been done years ago but I’m sure it’ll be done in the future," Groves City Manager D.E. Sosa told 12News on Thursday.
The Groves prosecuting attorney will take a look at the complaint and if he feels there's a violation will prosecute and if not will not accept it according to Sosa.
“The bells have been ringing before any of these people probably lived here, to be honest with you,” said Tomplait.
“We don't want to cause a lot of problems for people, we want to be agreeable. Part of our jobs as Christians is to be understanding, so we don't want to create any hard feelings, but we certainly want to be in ministry to this community by having this music," Wilson told 12News.
“It's hard to believe to be honest with you,” Tomplait said