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SPRINGDALE -- Police Chief Mike Peters took a shot in the dark, and he might have hit his mark.

Peters asked the Springdale Water and Sewer Commission on Wednesday to consider allowing the police department to build a firing range on land the commission owns on Wager Road in western Springdale. The commission agreed to allow him to explore the idea.

Peters said the department had been looking for commercial property sites for several years and found nothing suitable.

The department needs a range to train and test its officers twice yearly for state firearms certification, said Capt. Lester Coger. The department would also use the facility for training several times a year.

The Springdale Police Department has relied on the shooting range at the Arkansas Law Enforcement Training Academy, which is within the city limits, not far from the proposed site for the new range.

Police departments in Rogers and Fayetteville, as well as the sheriff's departments in Washington and Benton counties operate their own ranges. Springdale police and the area's smaller agencies rely on the academy's range, Coger said.

Time at the range has become difficult to reserve because so many cities use the range for certification. Peters said the department has to book reserve time on the range about a year in advance.

Clint Scrivner, training supervisor at the academy, said the gun range does stay booked, and the number of officers Springdale runs through can make it hard for the department to find times.

The city operated a police firing range at Bobby Hopper Park on East Emma Avenue for many years. It closed about 20 years ago as the surrounding area developed, Peters said.

The proposed range would use a small portion of the 109-acre property on Wager, Coger said. The department would develop the facility in phases, including 50-yard, 100-yard and 360-degree ranges.

"Our main concern is safety," Coger said. Officers would face disciplinary action for breaking the range rules. Rules will include measures such as keeping guns pointed in a safe direction, keeping fingers off the triggers and keeping the gun unloaded until ready to use.

The city would build a berm behind the targets of each range to catch bullets. Past the berm, a hill provides a natural backstop, Coger said.

He also said the police department wants to be a good neighbor to the people living near the proposed range site.

"We won't be out there everyday. We won't even be out there every week," Peters said. "We won't shoot on Sunday. We won't shoot on holidays."

A quick check of Google Earth during the commission meeting showed the nearest structures are about a mile from the proposed range site, said Rick Pulvirenti, the director of engineering and chief operating officer of Springdale Water Utilities.

"I live near the police academy," Coger said. "I occasionally hear gunshots. But I can hear that Har-Ber (High School) band guy yelling at the kids every day."

Rick Burrows also attended the meeting and owns land near the site.

"I know the flight schedule of every plane at the airport. And I don't think I'll be hearing guns at 6 a.m.," he said, referring to the first flight of the day out of the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.

The proposed range would use only about 5 to 7 acres of the property on Wager, Coger said.

"The site is as good as any in Northwest Arkansas," said Brad Baldwin, the city's director of engineering and public works, who has visited the location.

Baldwin said city staff will provide design and construction at no cost, if possible. He helped build and design a similar range a few years ago when he worked for Van Buren.

Chris Weiser, chairman of the Water and Sewer Commission, expressed concern about lead poisoning the land and ground water.

Peters said bullets probably would be left in the berm, as they were at the Bobby Hopper range. When that range closed, the berm and surrounding dirt were scraped up and the lead bullets removed.

Keith Stephens of the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission confirmed the bullets could stay in the berm as long as its an active range. If the range closes, the owner would be responsible for removing the lead from the site, according to a regulation of the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

The commission might want to put restrictions in a contract with the city, such as operating hours, who can use the facility and specifications on cleanup if the range closes, Weiser said.

Peters agreed.

Moving forward, police officials probably will work with Baldwin to come up with a site plan, said Ernest Cate, the Springdale city attorney. The land lies in Benton County, so police and city officials will confer with that county government. Cate and the water and sewer commission's lawyer, Charles Harwell, will work out any agreements between the city and the commission. Measures probably will require approval by the commission and the Springdale City Council, Cate said.

Fayetteville targets UA land for indoor range

The Fayetteville City Council on Tuesday got an overview how the city will spend about $97 million of the $226 million in the bond projects the voters approved last month.

Officials plan nearly $37 million for a police headquarters.

Police Chief Greg Tabor said the city is negotiating with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture to buy about 12 acres at the northeast corner of Deane Street and Porter Road. The campus will include a main police station, storage facility and indoor shooting range.

— Staff report

NW News on 05/19/2019

Print Headline: Water utility's land eyed for police firing range

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