Neighbors air concerns on potential firing range

Police say operating hours are open to negotiation.
Thursday, July 12, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:25 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Getting up to raid the coolers in a meeting, Columbia Police Chief Randy Boehm found himself serving others, not just grabbing a water for himself — a small task to keep the people who may be his departments’ neighbors happy.

The group assembled Tuesday night at the National Guard Armory to discuss the proposed location for the Columbia Police Department’s new training facility at Boatman Hill and McGee roads, on 21 acres currently owned by Columbia Power and Light.

The main concern for neighbors was the noise associated with the proposed firing range. But Capt. Mike Martin said the range would only be in use during negotiable hours, between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., fewer than 40 days throughout the year. He said even weekends are negotiable if it wins the neighbors’ approval.

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, a public shooting range.

“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 Boehm and Martin who were present at the meeting.

“Why put something like this in the middle of a residential neighborhood?” he asked. “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.”

“I’d be very interested to take a look,” Martin said.

“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,” Brown said. “We are absolutely desperate trying to get away from it. Our lives have just been hurt, for quite a while.”

Martin said cost and geographical criteria would factor in the decision, but the Police Department will look at the neighbors’ concerns this week.

“The less dirt work we have to do, the better off we’re 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.”

Boehm said the department wants to be a good neighbor, in whatever location it ends up; that’s why community input is so important.

“We’ve certainly gotten a lot of feedback, and we appreciate that, again that’s why we’re here,” he said at the close of the meeting. “We appreciate you being here, and we thank you for your time.”

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