Shooting range takes shape

For the first time, Port Orchard has taken the vision of the proposed police department indoor shooting range out of the minds of staff and put it down on paper.

The preliminary sketch, drafted by city engineer Larry Curles, outlines a full-service facility with 16 individual lanes, a viewing area, sound-buffering doors accessing the range, offices, bathrooms and classrooms.

The sketch estimates the total building size at 150 feet by 80 feet, but that — along with other specifics — will likely change over the next few weeks.

“It’ll be revised, but I don’t yet know where,” said Tom Herstad, a Port Orchard-based architect.

Herstad last week signed a $10,000-cap contract with the city for preliminary designs and engineering on the facility. The sketch, which he received last month, will serve largely as a starting place. For starters, Herstad said, he hasn’t even seen the site — a major consideration when designing buildings.

Herstad will also meet with city council members on the public property committee to make sure the design includes everything the city wants and nothing it deems unnecessary.

The city has been talking for years about building an indoor shooting range for its police force. The existing police range, located in the wilds of South Kitsap Industrial Park, is literally crumbling. The wooden shelters for the lanes, as well as the target posts, are splintering and falling apart. There is no storage or bathroom facilities.

In addition, many officers complain, there is an increasing problem with unauthorized people and animals wandering through the lanes or across the earth berm at the end of the range.

“It’s adequate for what we use it for, but there’s a concern for liability issues as the industrial park grows,” said police Chief Al Townsend.

Townsend is very enthusiastic about what the indoor range would offer —classroom space for training workshops and enough target stalls to give Port Orchard the flexibility to rent range time to other agencies, a possible source of income that could help offset operating costs.

The Washington State Patrol shares Port Orchard’s current facilities. Other Kitsap County agencies primarily rent space at the Bremerton Police Department’s range, which often has a waiting list for popular practice times.

If Port Orchard was to build a new range, Townsend said he expects not only Kitsap agencies, but agencies such as the Gig Harbor Police Department, to request time as well.

“They don’t have anything, so they’re currently having to use Pierce County,” Townsend said. “That’s more trouble than it’s worth.”

To prepare for the job, Herstad said he has been visiting similar shooting ranges all over the county. Part of the contract calls for drawings (elevations) of the main entry, and Herstad said it’s crucial the building have an appearance consistent with its function.

“Is it going to look like a firing range or what?” Herstad said, summing up the main focus of the project.

Herstad expects to tour the site sometime this week, but he has no set date to meet with the city council. Because there’s no money in the city budget for further work on the project — the money for Herstad’s contract was rolled over from last year — Herstad is under no pressure to complete the initial workup quickly.

The current estimate for the facility is between $500,000 and $1 million, depending on amenities.

“There’s no rush at all,” Herstad said.

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