What might be entertainment for tourists who walk along St. George Street has turned into a nuisance for Treasury Street residents, including priests who have to live at the rectory on the street.
The Rev. Tom Willis, of St. Augustine’s Cathedral Basilica, recently pleaded with St. Augustine commissioners to do something about street drummers who he said frequent the area.
“Those are drummers at 11 o’clock this past Friday night [July 7] outside my rectory at 35 Treasury St.,” he said, as a recording played on his cellphone. “It’s getting to the point that we can’t sleep in our house at night.”
Willis and the priests are required to live in the rectory, he said. It’s on the same grounds as the cathedral.
He said he hasn’t had a full night’s sleep in probably three months, and at least once a street party broke out until 3:30 a.m., he said.
“My staff works there and at times their ability to work is just lost,” he said. “I’m here humbly to ask your help. Find us a solution soon because it’s gotten to the point where our ability to truly minister to anyone is getting harmed by it.”
The city and its police force are looking into the problem to see what they can do, officials said.
“It’s not a situation that we would want to have in our city,” Mayor Nancy Shaver said. “And … obviously [police Chief Barry Fox] and the city manager will figure out what we can do within the bounds of our ordinances.”
Police could not be reached for comment by press time. Drummers also could not be located for comment on recent visits to the downtown area.
The drumbeats aren’t just keeping priests up at night, and noise is not the only issue Treasury Street residents have been experiencing.
Richard Baker, who lives on the street with his family, said he’s been dealing with issues related to street performers and panhandlers. And things have gotten worse recently.
“It’s the people beating on buckets. We call them bucket beaters,” he said, adding that the sound is so loud that he and his family can’t drown it out with a TV. “Our air conditioner is extremely loud, and we hear it over that. It’s got my grandparents up. They’re 88 and 89.”
The sound usually happens several days a week and hours at a time, he said.
People have also been leaving trash and waste on his family’s properties and elsewhere on the street, he said. To help, he’s put up no trespassing signs.
While the city of St. Augustine prohibits street performances on all of the north end of St. George Street, performances are allowed on most of Treasury Street. That is one of several streets that intersects with St. George Street.
Baker said he’s seen people violate the restrictions on street performing, but by the time police show up they have already left. Also, he’s called police to do noise testing but performers tend to quiet down when police show up, he said.
He said he doesn’t have a problem with people who panhandle peacefully or play music that’s not too loud. But he said something needs to be done about the recent issues.
“They’re taking advantage of [the] lifestyle [of those] who live here and breathe here,” he said.