Split Vote Expected On County Commission On Extra Money For Firing Range

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A split vote is expected on the County Commission next Wednesday on whether the county should come up with an additional $550,000 for a joint city-county firing range on E. 11th Street.

Commissioners Joe Graham and Tim Boyd voiced a number of concerns about the unexpected $550,000 request to the county.

Commissioner Graham said, "We've got the cart in front of the horse so far that the horse can't catch up." He said an earlier commitment for the city and county to put in $1.5 million each to go with $1 million in federal funds was made before firm cost figures were known.

He also objected to the fact that part of the building has a flat roof.

Commissioner Graham said it was time "to put the brakes on this."

Commissioner Boyd said the site selected at the old Farmers Market was free, but came with numerous problems because it was a former dump. He said, "If the city wants to do something with that property, then let Yusuf (City Council chairman Hakeem) do it. There has to be a better place to put this firing range."

He said the site preparation cost, including tearing down an existing building, is well over $1 million.

Commissioner Boyd said, "We need to value engineer this big time."

He noted that over half the project is training rooms. He said local police departments are handling training just fine now

However, other county officials said sheriff training "is in a mobile home with a bathroom."

Commissioner Fred Skillern, joining others in saying the firing range needs to be built, said, "I think we've dug ourselves into a hole so deep we won't see sunlight on July 4th."

Commissioner Greg Beck said he supports the new request, saying that knowledge of handling a gun is essential to police officers.

County Mayor Jim Coppinger said he is hopeful the new higher cost estimate can be whittled down, but he said it is still a much better deal than the county going it alone on a firing range.

He said, "I think the public expects us to do this. It would be a tragedy if the county went on its own and had to pay $4 million of $5 million later."   

The county mayor said the project started under a prior city administration.

Matthew Twitchella project manager for Franklin Architects, agreed it would have been better to have had firmer cost figures before the governments made commitments.

He said the new cost estimates were made after three construction firms were asked to review the project.

He said the firing range part has 12,154 square feet and the training area 12,333 square feet. 

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