Residents concerned with firing range plan

Wednesday, July 11, 2007 | 2:16 p.m. CDT; updated 4:06 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A makeshift sign taped to a chair directed neighbors down a tiled hallway to the left. The white room was filled with a dozen families, settled in rows.

Cookies and refreshments reminiscent of a block party sat on a side table, but the group was assembled at the National Guard Armory Tuesday night to discuss a tough issue — the possible location for the Columbia Police Department’s new training facility at Boatman Hill and McGee roads on land currently owned by Columbia Power and Light.

The main concern for neighbors was the noise associated with the proposed firing range.

Danny and Donna Brown attended the meeting to warn the community what they are in for. The couple lives near Cedar Creek Rod and Gun Club.

“The percussion hits your chest. My son, he’ll come in the house, he doesn’t want to play outside. ‘Mom, my ears are ringing,’” Donna Brown said.

Danny Brown questioned Chief Randy Boehm and Capt. Mike Martin who were at the meeting.

“Why put something like this in the middle of a residential neighborhood?” he said. “I mean I can ask any one of you law enforcement people, ‘Would you want to live next door to it?’”

Jenifer Westgate is concerned not only for herself and her property values, but the wildlife.

“It’s not fair for the animals or for us, and I am talking about generational properties here. There are other places in the city,” Westgate said.

That’s why the Browns proposed selling their land to the city. It is one acre less than the property on Boatman Hill Road.

“I don’t mean to interrupt your programming, but I’d like to invite you out to look at my property,” Danny Brown said. “We’re desperately trying to get away from there and what a better place to do it than right next to another shooting range that already exists. We have a farm and 20 acres. There are two ponds there that could very well be dug down and used as a shooting area per se.”

Martin said he’d be “very interested to take a look” at Brown’s property. He said cost and geographical criteria would factor in the decision, but the police department will be looking at the neighbors concerns this week.

“The less dirt work we have to do the better off were going to be,” Martin said. “The second thing is we’re looking for some type of paved roadway where we can travel to and from the facility. The third thing is that we want it in an area that is close to the city.”

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