Commissioners field gun range project concerns
The recreation and transportation special service district board met Monday and about 20 members from various shooting sports organizations were on hand to express concerns about the county gun range project.
Carbon Commissioner Bill Krompel began the discussion by asking the special service district for an additional $700,000 to help with the gun range project.
Krompel said a summary of funding to date shows that the project will cost an estimated $3.5 million to get it up and running.
So far, $2.5 million has come from the Utah Community Impact Board and $500,000 from the special service district. Half of the $2.5 million secured through the CIB is a grant. The other half is a loan the county will have to repay. An additional $700,000 from the SSD will bring the project funding to $3.7 million, explained Krompel.
A lengthy, in-depth discussion followed Krompel's request and many members of the public offered comments about the shooting range project..
Service district board member Sam Quigley asked if the $3.7 million expenditure would only complete phase one of the project.
Carbon Commissioner Steve Burge said Quigley's assumptions were correct. The $3.7 million will open the police, rifle and cowboy action shooting ranges. Planned archery, muzzleloader and shotgun ranges along with a parking lot for one of the venues and a hospitality center will not be completed at the present time.
When asked how the project got into a massive cost overrun, Burge said he would talk to the board in executive session, but was not free to discuss certain aspects of the problems in an open meeting.
Quigley asked if the gun range would be serviced by electrical generators instead of a power line connection. The board member was told that each range will have an electrical generator, at least in the short term.
Several items have been redesigned in an attempt to cut costs and the county is currently doing the engineering for the project, explained Burge. Plans for three visitor's centers have been dropped in favor of a less costly larger building.
Service district board member Pace Hansen, asked if plans were in place for maintenance of the facilities. The board member also wanted to know if a watchman would live on site and who would pay the costs.
Burge said county employees would take care of maintenance and security.
Board member Neil Breinholt indicated that the constantly changing money numbers are difficult to follow and comprehend. He asked if the county had an itemized breakdown of all the costs and estimates.
Burge assured Breinholt that the county had an itemized breakdown.
"We've got to plan better here," said Quigley.
The cost overruns are hitting the special service district for more than a 100 percent increase in funding compared to the amount originally pledged for the project, noted the board member.
"In my opinion, for $3 to $4 million dollars, this thing had better give us a good return to the county," said Quigley.
The board member recommended that the special service district require complete and detailed plans for future funding of county projects
Resident Larry Williams pointed out that more than $1 million has been spent so far and none of the projects are completed.
In his opinion, the resident said the problems started when the county hired an architect unfamiliar with gun range designs.
"You need someone who knows gun ranges," commented Williams. "You hired someone who didn't know this type of project." Williams further stated that the money already pledged would not complete the full project.
Hansen asked the county commissioners about the validity of the statement.
"Are there other venues not funded yet? asked Hansen.
Commissioner Mike Milovich said that the gun range will be completed in 2 phases. The police, rifle, and cowboy action ranges will be completed in phase one. The archery, muzzleloader, and skeet ranges will be completed in phase 2. Phase 2 is estimated to cost an additional $1 million dollars and has not been funded yet, he said. The $3.7 million will fund only phase 1.
Quigley then stated that before the shooting range can sponsor any national or international events, it must be sanctioned by an organization like the NRA. He asked if the project would meet those standards when completed.
Don Burge, a member of the audience, assured him that the shooting sports organizations have been working to gain the necessary sanctions for the gun ranges. There were several other public comments on the matter.
Hansen asked that the shooting sports clubs get together and have a spokesman bring their concerns and input to the SSD board at the next scheduled meeting.
SSD board member Neil Breinholt suggested that the shooting sports people sign off on the gun range to be sure the plans meet the requirements for an NRA sanctioned range. He also suggested that the board tour the site with county commissioners to better understand the project and the concerns.
Quigley stated that he recommended that the SSD board approve funding phase 1 of the project as outlined, but in the future be sure that the board receives a full accounting of the entire project.
Commissioner Steve Burge commented the project is not in chaos, even if it sometimes sounds that way. He said the project is fully underway and needs to proceed.
Quigley countered that the board is only trying to understand the project and it does sound like chaos. He said that when a funding agency is asked to make a 100 percent increase in their commitment, they have every right to ask questions.
Breinholt then made a motion that the SSD board ask for a description of the project budget, tour the site, review the overall plans, and resolve the issue of NRA sanctioning before making a further commitment to the project. With those studies done and the questions resolved, the board will re-address the issue at their next meeting.
In closing the discussion, Quigley stated that the board is committed to the project, at least to phase 1, and he asked commissioner Burge if the county needed any of the funds the board has already pledged to be released at this time.
Burge told him that the funds were not needed yet.
In other business, the SSD board received an update of the Helper swimming pool project and the county golf course. Dean Armstrong told the board that the swimming pool project has been plagued with cost increases and unforeseen problems. He said that construction is now at about $300 thousand above the original estimates. Additional funding has been secured, and the project is proceeding, but Armstrong did say that the planned opening for July 4 would not be met.
The board discussed the situation of energy tax funds generated by the State Institutional Trust Lands Administration. It was pointed out that carbon county is receiving only one-half of one percent of the revenues generated by oil and gas mineral extraction in the state.
Milovich told the board that school districts across the state receive SITLA funds depending upon total student enrollment in the districts. He said the carbon school district receives a smaller per pupil allotment than almost any other district in the state. He said that carbon receives about $9.80 per pupil compared to a state average of over $25 dollars per pupil. He said this makes little sense since carbon county is generating more SITLA revenues than any other county in the state.
Milovich said the legislature is addressing the problem by drafting a new plan for allocation of the SITLA monies. "Mike Dmitrich is working on it," Milovich said, "and he will keep us posted."
The board also discussed putting aside money to purchase water shares for the golf course. Currently, the county leases water to run the golf course.
The Dugout Canyon road project was then addressed. Krompel said that Arch Coal Company has agreed to pay $1.1 million toward a two-inch asphalt overlay of the county road to help accommodate the heavy truck traffic. The county has agreed to do a chip-seal of the overlay next year.
The on-going issue of the Nine Mile road was also discussed, but board members agreed that no decisions could be made pending the release of Creamer & Noble's engineering study of the road. The board expects to receive the report in the next two weeks.
In final matters of business, the board adopted a formal mission statement and was presented with a detailed financial report by county clerk, Robert Pero.