Glenville — Town officials on Wednesday night tabled a pair of procedural votes on a controversial police gun range proposal, but the range’s opponents promised to not let down their fight.
Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he was continuing to push the proposal forward, while simultaneously looking into potential alternative sites. But those sites would come at a cost and prohibit the town from using grant funding it had lined up for the project.
The original proposal was to build a training range for Glenville police at a town-owned property at 156 Barhydt Road, near the site of an old town landfill. But residents in the area have raised concerns about the noise created by firearms practice, the environmental impact of bullets and potential safety risks.
“It’s clear there are still some questions; I think there are some misconceptions [about the proposal],” said Koetzle, who on Tuesday met with a group of about 10 residents concerned about the range proposal. The meeting lasted nearly three hours. “We need to do more work communicating with the residents on that.”
Koetzle said he was looking seriously at one alternative site on private land in West Glenville, suggesting he would pursue a long-term lease, something like 99 years, on a private site. He said there were another couple of sites that may work as options. But Koetzle said as he negotiates with private landowners on what a lease arrangement would look like, he still plans to pursue the original proposal.
The delayed vote didn’t deter a group of residents from voicing their continued concerns with the gun range proposed near their homes.
A pair of residents near the proposed site say questions about the design and planning for the training range have yet to be answered by town officials.
“We should not be desensitizing our children to the sounds of gun fire in any neighborhood,” said Krista Hawk, who lives near the site of the proposed range. “The sounds of gunfire do not belong in any child’s neighborhood.”
Bill Bolton, who hosted Koetzle’s meeting with concerned residents on Tuesday, said the project appears to be growing as the town considers building a facility that would accommodate training for different types of police tactics. He questioned why the town has not presented more detailed plans and urged the Town Board to include residents in every step of the planning process.
After addressing the board, Bolton and his wife, Jamie, said they feared the range would ruin the character of the property they had bought hoping to retire with horses one day. They also said if a range were built so close to their home, they would no longer be able to enjoy the woods behind their home and would feel less safe there.
“How are you going to keep all of those bullets in there?” Jamie Bolton said. “It’s not safe; it’s not safe in any way, shape or form.”
Glenville Police Chief Stephen Janik after the meeting outlined why the town needs a new training facility for police, who now train at a private gun club in the area. While the police only need access to a range for six days of training in the spring and six days in the fall, Janik said working with a private club complicates scheduling and doesn’t provide the police the same level of flexibility and privacy they would get out of their own facility. He said having access to their own facility would be “invaluable” and pointed out that wherever they go to train they are likely creating noise for someone.
“A Glenville-owned range would allow us to use it when we need to use it,” Janik said. “The reality of our training is 12 days a year. Do we plan to do more? No, but it would be nice to know we could.”
After the meeting, Koetzle said he planned to see the range project to fruition, whether at the Barhydt Road site or an alternative site. He dismissed the idea that Glenville police continue to train at a private club or partner with another training facility.
“We have to have a dedicated training facility for our officers and we will,” Koetzle said. “You always want to control your own destiny; we are going to control our own training destiny.”