Hamilton County commissioners to vote on firing range

Hamilton County commissioners to vote on firing range

January 11th, 2013 by Kate Belz and Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Proposed shooting range

Proposed shooting range

Illustration by Laura McNutt /Times Free Press.

Hamilton County commissioners will decide next week whether to fund a gun range for area law enforcement officers once more detailed figures on monthly costs and construction are provided.

Officials with the Chattanooga Police Department and Hamilton County Sheriff's Office outlined plans Thursday for a $4,050,000 indoor firing range at the old Farmer's Market off 11th Street.

They hope to replace the law-enforcement shooting range at Moccasin Bend, which soon will be given to Moccasin Bend National Park.

The city and the county will each put $1.5 million up for the new facility behind the Chattanooga police precinct on 11th Street. Additional construction costs will be covered with $1,050,000 in federal grant money that could begin to expire in July.

"I'm a strong believer in this working," said Commissioner Joe Graham. "It almost sounds like -- without all the numbers -- we're writing a blank check."

Chief Deputy Allen Branum and Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd fielded a number of commissioners' questions about operating costs and "hidden charges" related to the project.

Dodd and Branum said they hoped to offset some operating costs by charging other local law enforcement agencies to use the facility.

They also said they could bring in revenue from the range's lead-recovery component.

The indoor range will require a sophisticated ventilation system and a filter and auger containment system to collect spent lead and brass.

The new range won't allow for long-distance firing practice, but it will allow trainers to simulate conditions like storms, darkness and flashing lights. The design also will provide little noise disruption.

However, an unforseen cost may be in cleaning up the lead on the Moccasin Bend property.

"In transferring the land to the Park Service, one of our requirements is environmental cleanup," Kathleen Cook superintendent for Chickamauga-Chatttanooga National Military Park, said at Thursday's meeting.

City and county officials said this was the first time they had heard of the requirement.

"I do not recall being told we would have to do lead [removal]. They asked for the property. We were going to give it to them. I think that's something the mayor will have to address," said Matt Lea, special assistant to the Chattanooga mayor and city lobbyist.

The removal may boost the project's cost.

"It concerns me we may be stepping into something we don't really know what the price tag's going to be," said Commissioner Jim Fields.

Dodd stressed the need for quick action, saying that the grant for construction will expire soon.

One $550,000 grant earmarked for a bullet trap is set to expire in July and the second $500,000 grant is set to expire in July 2014.

"We just need to show them sort of progress that we're using these funds," Lea said.

Officers were supposed to stop using the Moccasin Bend range Dec. 31, but they'll keep practicing there for the time being, Dodd said.

Lea said everyone had hoped the project would be farther along at this point.

"We had hoped we would have a facility somewhat built by the middle of this year," he said.