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Commission focuses on resolving problem with gun range project

Sun Advocate community editor

When the Utah Permanent Community Impact Board suggested that a $1.2 million grant awarded to Carbon County last year for a shooting range may be rescinded, commissioners and project supporters started scrambling to find a solution to a primary problem - the facility's location.

"There has been a lot of work done over the past two years to come up with a site for this," said Commissioner Bill Krompel. "We have looked at sites near the airport, the Nine Mile area and even in Willow Creek. All the land acquisition in those areas required environmental assessments because at least some of the land was under the control of the (United States) Bureau of Land Management or (Utah) State Institutional Trust Lands (SITLA). We now need an option in the next month or so, because all of us agree we don't want to lose the money."

The executive committee of the gun range advisory board was present at the meeting.

Don Burge, who has been the director of the movement, mentioned that the range advocates had heard the commission was considering building some type of indoor range with the money to keep from losing it

But Burge and other supporters urged the commission to give the group time to come up with the land for another alternative.

"We are pleading with you to not vote to expend the money on an indoor range that would be located on property the county presently owns," stated Burge.

"All through this process, we were led to believe that either the BLM or SITLA would be the answer to our problems and maybe they still could be. But about a month ago, because of all that has been going on, we changed direction and began to search for land we could buy from private parties."

Burge presented documents to the commission to demonstrate that talks are taking place with private property owners in the county about purchasing land for a range.

According to Burge, the locations vary. He said any property hosting a gun range would ideally be close enough to population areas in the county so the facility could be easily utilized. A range must also be far enough away so the facility would not create problems for nearby residences or businesses.

"We have various locations, some five to 15 miles away from town," noted Burge. "There are some big obstacles with those close to populated areas, not that they can't be solved. But the time restraints we have make it more difficult. An extension on the June 1 date would help."

Commissioner Mike Milovich, who sits on the state board, assured Burge that the June 1 date given by the CIB was not set in stone.

However, the county commissioners indicated something needed to be done before the money was taken away.

"I was told we need to do something soon," pointed out Milovich. "We must also have ownership or a very long-term lease to satisfy the CIB's parameters."

Burge said the properties they have been looking at range in size and location. While the minimum amount of land the group felt was needed for the gun range was 100 acres, they have been trying to figure out how to "squeeze it into 40 acres."

"We need to be sure what we do will accommodate everyone," stated Krompel, referring to the fact that there are at least a dozen disciplines in the shooting sport that need to be considered. "We may have to phase some of this in. The sites must be close enough so that they are easily accessed. We may have to consider breaking the range up into sections and develop them separately to keep from losing the money."

He also pointed out that it was his feeling that if the county and the gun range committee did a timely and quality job on the range he was sure there would be more money coming for further expansion and improvement.

Dave Levanger, the county's building and zoning director said that he realized a lot of work had been done looking for the right property at the right price, but that there were a lot of considerations to look at on any site.

"Any place the county acquires must have electricity and culinary water available to it," he told the commissioners. "We have to also think about other utilities such as sewer, or septic systems and if we have access to natural gas or if we could use propane for any structures. It must also have good access for the public's use."

The discussion then turned to structures that may be put on a site. It was mentioned that with escalating building costs, it is hard to determine how much money it would take to build any kind of command center or other buildings.

Commissioner Steve Burge, pointed out that a backup plan to handle the money needed to be considered if a land deal didn't come through and a structure had to be erected on current county property.

"I don't think that backup plan should necessarily be an indoor range, however," stated the county commissioner. "The maintenance costs on that would be way too high."

Krompel suggested that, possibly, some type of indoor-outdoor venue could be built instead.

Don Burge told the county commissioners hat he felt the land was all important and getting a piece situated in a spot where a gun range could expand was imperative.

"We need a place where we can acquire more property in the future if we see the need," he stated.

There was also some talk about the architects that had been secured for the project, although no formal contracts have been drawn up to do any work.

"It's difficult for them to begin anything until we actually have some property to work with," said Steven Burge. "We need to get past these obstacles before we can begin with that."

The commissioners agreed to not take any direct action on the money or a project to allow the gun range committee additional time to try and work out a land deal.

The gun range matter will re-emerge at the next regularly scheduled session of the commission or sooner if a special meeting is needed to discuss a real estate transaction.

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