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Glenville residents organize against police gun range

Glenville residents organize against police gun range

Police firing range would be at former town landfill
Glenville residents organize against police gun range
Niskayuna police officer Sgt. Joe Twitty fires at the Niskayuna Police Gun Range in 2014.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

GLENVILLE -- West Glenville residents opposed to plans for a town police firing range near their homes are organizing ahead of a Town Board hearing on the project Wednesday night.

"We are concerned about noise and safety issues and the lead contamination of the soil," said Krista Hawk of Barhydt Road, treasurer of the recently organized Concerned Citizens of Glenville. "Our biggest concern is safety when it comes to the firing of the weapons."

The range is proposed for part of the former town landfill, which is located on Barhydt Road north of the railroad tracks.

"Anything outside of an indoor range is going to be unacceptable," said Bill Bolton of Wagner Road, the group's president. He said the group is consulting with attorneys.

The residents have organized over the past month, soon after town officials announced plans for the police gun range. The proposed range is separate but closely associated with plans for a public safety training center nearby at Vley Road and state Route 5.

The Town Board will host a public hearing at 7 p.m. on Wednesday at the Town Hall on declaring the "governmental nature" of the two projects -- a step that could exempt the plans from the town's zoning ordinance.

Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle and Police Chief Stephen Janik have met with the concerned residents. Koetzle said the town is trying to address their concerns and that the issues will need to be addressed during the environmental review of the plans, which will be the subject of a separate public hearing later this summer.

"A lot of their concerns will be addressed in the [environmental study] or will come out in the process," Koetzle said. "We've talked about enclosing the range on three sides. That's something we would be willing to do, and potentially purchasing silencers for the rifles. They are the loudest."

Moving the range elsewhere in town isn't an option, Koetzle said. The 73-acre former landfill, which closed in the 1990s, is already owned by the town, he noted.

Even if the Town Board exempts the project from town zoning, Bolton believes state laws governing the noise allowed from gun ranges and a state law against discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a dwelling or agricultural structure apply. He said he has a chicken coop on his property that he estimates would be 250 feet from the gun range.

"There are standards from the (National Rifle Association) and military range standards, which say any range within a half-mile of a residence should have baffles all around it to contain ricochets and reduce sound," Bolton said.

Koetzle noted there are two private gun clubs in West Glenville, and that there have been other law enforcement gun range proposals for the landfill site in the past. This is the most modest, he said, adding that the range could be used as few as 14 days per year.

Town police have been using a private gun club range for their mandated firearms practice, but they have to work around the club's schedule.

"With training requirements, they need a training place of their own," Koetzle said.

He also said new fencing will be placed between the Wagner Road residences and the gun range, and the town will have lead reclamation procedures so bullets don't cause soil contamination.

"We know there will be opposition," Koetzle said. "(The State Environmental Quality Review) is about weighing the benefit of the project against the opposition. I've told the residents, at some point we will make a decision, and we will make the decision that is in the best interest of the town of Glenville."

Both the gun range and the public safety center would be funded with $277,000 the town has set aside for the project. That amount includes a $127,000 state grant.

The public safety training center would include an emergency vehicle operations course, a classroom building and a "burn pad" for fire training. The fire training center would be for the town's six volunteer fire companies, and potentially for the Scotia Fire Department.

Bolton and Hawk said some people in their group don't want the training center, but it is the possibility of a gun range that people are upset about.

Reach Daily Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 518-395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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