Targeting a new facility

5/7/2013

Officials see need for new shooting range.

Officials see need for new shooting range.

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

The Garden City Police Department's indoor shooting range still serves a purpose, but because of its age, maintenance costs and its limitations in terms of training, some believe there has long been a need for a new facility.

The topic was brought up at the Garden City Commission's February goal-setting retreat, but City Manager Matt Allen said the topic has been discussed at various times over the years and is one that lends itself to identifying other entities that might be interested in partnering with the city to get one built.

"(It's been) kind of a brainstorming perspective over the years, that if the city were to look at something like that, we would look at finding other partners in the region, maybe other law enforcement agencies or statewide agencies or the community college, from an academic standpoint, their public safety," Allen said. "That's how a lot of things in Garden City get done."

Garden City police Capt. Randy Ralston said the existing range still serves a valuable purpose in terms of firearm training, but it has its limitations.

"Its old. It's seen better days. It's lasted a long time, was built in the '60s, maybe late '50s, and it's done," Ralston said. "It fulfills a need. It does what we need, but we could benefit so much more and do better training if we had a better facility."

Ralston said the new technology and features of more updated facilities are equipped to provide more real-life scenarios, including moving targets, whereas the current targets are static. He added that if the new range ever becomes a reality, there are systems available that allow officers to train for active shooters and school shootings.

"We could put up hallways when we do active shooter training and that kind of stuff — down hallways, classrooms and the doors. We can set up the range to do that. We could do a lot of different things, whereas this kind of space, we're limited on what we can do," Ralston said. "There are so many things we want to do in terms of training. Training has advanced and evolved so much. We try to do realism in training."

Safety is another concern at the existing facility. Currently, Ralston must supervise all the officers who are using the shooting lanes, but logistically can't watch all the lanes at one time.

"(Right now), I have to have safety officers help me monitor as we shoot, whereas with a new facility, we'll account for this kind of stuff," Ralston said.

The dividers between lanes also are supposed to be bulletproof. The current dividers are made of steel, which works, but there are bullet holes in some of them, where fortunately, a steel plate prevented them from traveling through and injuring another officer.

Ralston also said that the facility's age lends itself to a lot of upkeep and maintenance costs.

"There are some problems with the facilities there. We upkeep them and do maintenance, but we're just putting a Band-Aid over it. That's all we're doing," he said.

In terms of the price for a new facility, which remains in the research stage, Ralston said a well-equipped indoor range costs from $3 million to $3.5 million. This is where the need for partnerships with other entities, and possibly outside cities and counties, comes in.

Linda Morgan, director of Garden City Community College's Department of Public Safety, which uses the GCPD's current indoor range to train students, said a new, updated facility has been a dream of the DPS for a long time.

"There's a whole lot of new technology and new options that are out there. We could never retrofit that (existing) range to do any of that, even if we wanted to," Morgan said.

While researching ideas, Ralston said, he came across an indoor range in Albuquerque, N.M., where the public can pay to use the facility.

"What they did in Albuquerque is you could either do a yearly membership, a monthly membership or you could pay per hour. You could rent the lane per hour, basically," he said. "One of the goals of a new range is it would be city-owned and open to the public to use."

The current facility is not accessible to the public because it isn't ADA accessible.

Allen said there are currently no concrete plans in place, as the project is still in the discussion or brainstorming phase.

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