Originally created 11/19/96

County may use shooting center for recreational purposes



AIKEN - Aiken County officials say they're looking to the recently closed South Carolina Outdoor Shooting Center in Windsor to help expand limited recreational programs in the eastern part of the county.

And leasing the facility could also save the county $50,000.

County Administrator Bill Shepherd said Monday that he hopes council members will pass a resolution today allowing the county to lease the 273-acre facility for up to 20 years.

"We think (the center) offers a tremendous recreational opportunity particularly since it's located in that part of the county," Mr. Shepherd said. "In addition to the shooting aspect, it's got room for athletic fields, has the opportunity to offer horseback riding and is a place where we could conduct summer camps."

Leasing the center could also keep the county from having to pay $50,000 owed to the state Department of Natural Resources on a contract between the agency and the center's former operator.

The agency signed a $50,000 contract in April with Richard Sherman to use the facility over a 10-year period for hunter education and safety training courses. The contract states that if the facility failed to provide the services, the county would reimburse the money.

The center closed Sept. 16. Mr. Sherman said last month that he used the money to complete construction of the center's shooting bunker and to enclose the outdoor kitchen.

Van McCarty, major over staff operations at DNR, said Monday that he would support the county reopening the center.

"We'd rather have access to the facility than the money back," Mr. McCarty said. "If we can get the services we were looking for, that would be our primary interest."

Mr. Shepherd said the DNR could resume its classes if the county reopens the center.

"The contract would transfer from the previous operator to the county," he said. "We could work together."

If the resolution passes, the county would open the center Jan. 1, Mr. Shepherd said, adding that they are still negotiating lease conditions with Hollis Houghton, owner of the property the center is on.

Mr. Sherman, who has operated the center the past three years, contends that he is not responsible for its closing. He said Ms. Houghton, a former Aiken resident, closed the facility for unknown reasons.