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McDuffie planners deadlock on proposed police gun range

Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012 9:12 PM
Last updated 9:28 PM
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THOMSON – The McDuffie County Planning Commission failed to reach a consensus Tuesday on a proposed law enforcement firearms training range.

McDuffie County sheriff's Maj. Ronnie Williamson (left) shows details of a proposed police firearms training range to Jim Alfriend and Planning Commission Chairman Charles Wallace. Alfriend spoke against Williamson's proposal at a public hearing Wednesday. The question goes to the McDuffie County Commissioners on Jan. 17.  Garth Snow/McDuffie Mirror
Garth Snow/McDuffie Mirror
McDuffie County sheriff's Maj. Ronnie Williamson (left) shows details of a proposed police firearms training range to Jim Alfriend and Planning Commission Chairman Charles Wallace. Alfriend spoke against Williamson's proposal at a public hearing Wednesday. The question goes to the McDuffie County Commissioners on Jan. 17.

Sheriff’s Maj. Ronnie Williamson asked the commission to support the gun range on a 210-acre, county-owned parcel at Old Wrightsboro Road and Vic Moore Road northwest of Thomson.

Opponents argued that the county should sell the land and put it back on the tax rolls. They also said noise from the shooting range would destroy the tranquility of the isolated homes in the area.

The proposal now goes to the county commissioners without a recommendation. That board will meet 6:30 p.m. Jan. 17 in the Thomson-McDuffie County Government Center.

Williamson said recent court decisions require police departments to better train officers to fire under varying conditions.

“And also, we’ve got to train them when not to shoot,” said Williamson, who has been a firearms instructor since 1979. “These officers must be razor sharp.

“We’re living in a different world today,” he added, citing statistics on shooting deaths among U.S. police agencies.

Williamson said the department now uses the old Georgia Department of Natural Resources range at the McDuffie Public Fishing Area. He said the sheriff’s department must coordinate shooting hours with the DNR, and that process limits opportunities. He also said the range is basically a stand-and-shoot, marksman-style range that does not accommodate low-light shooting and other training options.

Charles Wallace said the county purchased the 210 acres in the 1990s for a landfill, but the escalating cost associated with tighter regulations forced the county to scrap that project. Wallace, a former county commissioner, now serves as chairman of the planning commission. He joined Georgia C. Hobbs in voting against a proposal to deny the request. Members Ron Hickman and Don McCorkle voted in favor of the motion to deny, creating a tie.

The 210-acre parcel is next to another county-owned, 86-acre parcel.

Retired game warden Philip Moss said the smaller lot contains a cemetery. He asked whether survivors of those buried there had been notified of the hearing. He also said the county would be better served by selling the land and putting it back on the tax digest.

Jim Alfriend, a professional forestry manager, said the area north of the old Wrightsboro community is isolated and somewhat of a frontier. He said the county should sell the land or at least set up a timber management plan.

“The county’s not in the business of owning 300 acres of land,” he said.

He urged the sheriff’s department to find a better location, such as underused public land or a dormant kaolin mine.

After the tie vote, Williamson said he still believes the project should advance.

“It’s in the best interests of law enforcement officers, and of the people they protect,” Williamson said as he visited with several of those who had spoken against the plan.

“This is what makes America great,” he said. “Two different groups can tell their sides, shake hands, and walk out.”

Comments (8) Add comment
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Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/03/12 - 09:37 pm
0
0
Hopefully the county

Hopefully the county commissioners will be smarter than the planning commissioners. Law Enforcement needs good shooting range areas with plenty of land as a buffer zone and this sounds perfect.

Commissioners and the public demand so much from law enforcement and then deny them what they need in order to do the job effectively.

Provide them with the land they need and unlimited opportunities to train.

raul
5543
Points
raul 01/03/12 - 10:29 pm
0
0
Why can't McDuffie County law

Why can't McDuffie County law enforcement use the Richmond County facilities for a fee?

itsanotherday
0
Points
itsanotherday 01/03/12 - 10:40 pm
0
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raul, I would say distance is
Unpublished

raul, I would say distance is a limiting factor. It is close to an hour from downtown Thomson to Pinetucky. As was noted, they need something close for unlimited opportunity to train. I too hope the commissioners come through on this; McDuffie is a growing county with greater and greater need for professional LE.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/03/12 - 11:21 pm
0
0
They can...but scheduling is

They can...but scheduling is always a problem between trying to keep 750 people trained on 20 lanes and the requirements for weekly SWAT training as well as many of the small agencies that need to use the Richmond County range that are actually in Richmond County and the police academy classes. There are many other issues from liability to proper use to who does the training and what type of training can take place. Frankly, Richmond County is even in need of newer and larger facilities to meet the current needs of law enforcement training.

The days of shooting at stationary targets are long gone out west and in most of the north and the new types of shooting drills require far larger buffer zones, a lot more property and various equipment needs. For now, if you want great training facilities (not better instructors necessarily just facilities) then you hvae to go out west or to departments with communities that properly fund them because they understand that is far better than losing just 1 law suit that will cost the community in excess of a million dollars.

Now days, it isn't only people who sue that get shot by the police but police who sue due to injury from lack of training or families of police that sue to to the death of an officer where lack of training is required and provided for.

You can do the math to see how many days it takes just to give 750 officers even 4 hours of training each year (not near enough) plus all of the hours that SWAT must use the facility weekly. Just the 750 officers alone if the range is used every day of the week rotating officers through, etc. would take up the majority of the year not alloting for SWAT or clean up days, rain days, etc.

raul
5543
Points
raul 01/03/12 - 11:46 pm
0
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@Asitisinaug. Thanks for the

@Asitisinaug. Thanks for the reply.

Georgia09
0
Points
Georgia09 01/04/12 - 08:38 am
0
0
Ask yourselves: would I want

Ask yourselves: would I want a shooting range bordering my property or near my property? I think the answer would be NO! This proposed site is on 210 acres of county owned land that is boarder by 86 more acres of county owned land. As of now the county has two valuable pieces of property that they could sell. If you put a shooting range on this property it will devalue the land that the county owns and also the land around it. The county would never be able to sell this land after a shooting range was developed on it. It would be a waste of resources. Also there is an issue with getting to this property. This proposed site is on a red clay dirt road that is not passable most of the year unless you have four wheel drive. How would a crown vic even get to it? Will the sheriffs department ask the county to pave this road? Costing the county more money? I also believe that new cars are in the budget for the sheriffs department. Are they going to take these new cars “mud bogging” down this dirt road to get to the shooting range? It just doesn’t make since. Why not sell this property and build the sheriffs department a state of the art indoor range and put the rest of the money back into the county? I hope the county commissioners do the smart thing and deny this proposal and help the sheriffs department look for a more practical solution for training our law enforcement officers.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/04/12 - 06:28 pm
0
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Georgia09, an OSHA compliant

Georgia09, an OSHA compliant "state of the art" indoor shooting range would cost more than an outside range even taking into consideration 200-300 acres. Furthermore, an indoor range does nothing for law enforcement except allow for very basic training. You may not shoot from various positions due to constraints. You may not cross shoot as is often needed. You can not conduct any type of SWAT training, shoot from within vehicles or through windshields all of which is a part of modern law enforcement training. Indoor ranges are nice and work well in this part of the country due to extreme weather conditions but basically are for minimal qualifications of straight on target shooting.

Why not let the professionals show you what they need and then get them what they need to do the jobs we ask of them? Why not use land the county already owns unless you can buy several hundred acres for far less? No matter what land you find with 200 plus acres you are going to have challenges and you will have the same type of arguments from nay-sayers.

It really comes down to how you support Law Enforcement and their training needs. As for putting money back into the county, you may save now but may have to spend to defend law suits for not doing the right thing from the begining which often seems to be the way it is done.

As a graduate of the NRA Range Development and Operations Course for Law Enforcement I believe this to be a necessity for an agency such as the MCSO and hope that the commissioners thing long term. They have the property, they have a need and they should use it to solve a problem for the Sheriff's Office now.

Asitisinaug
3
Points
Asitisinaug 01/04/12 - 06:31 pm
0
0
Georgia09 - Sheriff's Offices

Georgia09 - Sheriff's Offices need outdoor ranges and the public needs ranges but according to you since no one would want to be near one they shouldn't exsist. Sorry, but this is over 200 acres of county owned property and that is perfect for a shooting range and has plenty of noise abatement.

Georgia09
0
Points
Georgia09 01/05/12 - 08:18 am
0
0
Asitisinaug I fully support

Asitisinaug

I fully support the sheriff’s request for a range just not at this proposed site. It just does not make since. They want to use 10-50 acres. What about the rest of the property? Is it just going to be useless land that the county owns and can do nothing with because a shooting range is in the middle of it? What about the thousands of acres of public land in the area? Why not build it there where it will not disturb others? And explain to me how they are going to get to the proposed site? Have you ever been down this road? When it rains this road is not passable with out four wheel drive. I get the idea of putting the range out there, lots of land and not many people around. But there are still land owners with rights and they have the right not to have a shooting range bordering their property whether or not the live there or not. And again what about the road?

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