County Commission members said Wednesday they want answers on a major cost increase to the planned city/county police firing range.
The commission delayed a vote planned for next week on the county contributing an extra $550,000. The city is being asked to put in the same amount of additional funding.
The city and county earlier committed $1.5 million each to go along with a $1 million federal grant. The grant has already been spent for equipment for the indoor range planned for 11th Street at the old Farmers Market.
Sheriff Jim Hammond said costs are higher than expected due to remediation of the site, which is at a former dump, as well as professional services and the air filtering system.
He said he did not have all the answers because the city is the lead agency on the project.
Sheriff Hammond said, "I'm just glad we're not carrying guns this morning or I might have to duck behind the podium."
County Mayor Jim Coppinger said the original cost estimate was "a real good deal", and he said the new price is reasonable. He said it would be much more expensive for the city and county to build separate firing ranges.
Commissioner Tim Boyd, who earlier went before the City Council and vowed not to go above the $1.5 million, said he is in the construction business and if he brought forth a change order of that size "I would be fired."
He said, "There's a lot of information the commissioners are not fully versed in. I don't see any architects in here to address any of those issues. Before this comission approves another dollar, we need more information. This commissioner is not going to be in favor of this because I have 40,000 constituents that I can't defend this to."
He questioned whether the project could be slimmed down. Sheriff Hammond said, "The range we're building is barebones. It is nothing close to a country club."
Told that half of the facility is training rooms, Commissioner Boyd said the rooms part could easily be lopped off.
Commissoiner Marty Haiynes wondered if there should be a joint meeting of the City Council and County Commission on the issue. He told the sheriff, "I know this is an uncomfortable situation having to ask for more funds."
Commissioner Joe Graham said, "You're asking for an additional $1.5 million, but there's no itemized list of what we're getting. Going forward I need to know what we're voting on."
He said Lookout Mountain, Tn., and Red Bank Police advised him they would not use the new range. Sheriff Hammond said eventually all agencies will have to use indoor facilities.
Commissioner Graham said, "It's my humble opinion I just don't think we have enough information."
Chairman Fred Skillern said, "This is in essence a 25 percent change order, which is unheard of. Bankers don't loan money like that and we shouldn't be spending the taxpayers' money like that."
He said, "I would like to put this off to the next agenda session, I would like more information brought in."