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Gun range needs partners, funding

The updated status of the proposed regional training complex comes as good news to local law enforcement agencies.

According to Port Orchard Police Chief Al Townsend, Olympic College and the Kitsap County Emergency Readiness Center have approached the City of Port Orchard with an interest in the project and a partnership is now a matter of working out the details.

“Basically, we’re establishing partnerships for the range,” said Townsend. “Once we secure those partnerships on paper, we can move forward.”

The new indoor firearms range is currently slated to be built as part of the Readiness Center on land allotted by the National Guard, near Pendergas Park.

“It’s really a great plan,” Townsend said. “There’s clearly a need.”

The City of Port Orchard has already invested $10,000 in the project to fund the initial drawings, provided by local architect Tom Herstad.

Townsend expects the city will contribute up to an additional $175,000 and a resolution might soon be placed on the City Council’s agenda to approve a partnership with Olympic College.

Townsend estimates Olympic College will end up paying roughly one-third of the total cost of the project — approximately $500,000 — if an agreement is reached.

However, there are some setbacks. The project was originally estimated at $1.3 million. Townsend said the project might actually cost closer to $1.7 million, due to the equipment needed to fulfill the level of training needed to secure partnerships with Olympic College and federal agencies.

“That was also based on the city doing some of the preliminary work,” Townsend said.

Another problem: “There really isn’t a revenue source under the new plan,” Townsend said. “Originally, we thought we’d raise revenue though allowing public access.”

However, as Townsend explained, the security required at the Readiness Center is such that does not allow that type of public access.

Plus, Townsend said with a partnership with Olympic College, the range will be heavily used without the added public patronage.

However, Townsend said funding for the range still highly probable. He said some of the operational costs of running it can be collected by charging rent for its use by law enforcement agencies other than Port Orchard. Townsend also said funding is being rounded up through grant applications and perhaps a part of the homeland security funds allocated to the state by the federal government.

“(The range is) more about training local law enforcement, but it does fit within the perimeters (of funding),” Townsend said.

For now, Townsend said, the funding plan is in its preliminary stages.

“We’re still in the process of putting together a business plan for it,” Townsend said. “We really need to finish our business plan with Olympic College.”

The new firearms range features 16 25-yard lanes, with a wall in the middle so the facility can be utilized by two groups at a time.

The firing range currently utilized by the city has six outdoor lanes built in the 1970s and concern for the surrounding neighborhoods is growing every day.

As for whether or not a local police force needs an up-to-date firearms range, Townsend is adamant.

“It’s absolutely critical that we’re trained,” he said. “We don’t use our guns every day so training is such a key part of it. It’s also a state requirement and a public safety issue. The officers need to learn when to shoot and when not to shoot, and the range teaches that.”

According to Townsend, each Port Orchard police officer does six to eight “shoots” a year. Townsend said it often takes several days to fill the requirements of a shoot.

“Right now, we have such a lack of facilities,” he said.

Townsend said many other law enforcement agencies are excited to use the new range, including the Poulsbo, Bainbridge Island and Bremerton Police Departments, the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department and the Washington State Patrol. The Gig Harbor Police Department and other agencies in Pierce, Jefferson and even Mason County are also interested, according to Townsend.

Although Bremerton has its own outdoor firearms range, Townsend said the benefits of an indoor range have sparked an interest.

“(An indoor range) can be used in any type of weather. You can make it dark when it’s light outside,” Townsend said.

According to Townsend, Bremerton’s facility is already used at maximum and

Olympic College has a strong desire to get rolling as soon as possible. “Clearly,” he said, “funding is the issue.”

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