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Editorials

Lancaster shooting range project off the table; Part I: work session
By Lee Chowaniec
Feb 7, 2012, 09:04
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By unanimous vote the Lancaster Town Board determined to exercise its right reserved in the bidding process to reject all bids received for the construction of a firing range within the existing police garage on Pavement Road in the Town of Lancaster.

After referring to the resolution at the work session, Supervisor Dino Fudoli informed the town board members and attendees that a shooting range was being built in the Village of Depew. He declared that he was apprised of the project in mid January and met with project sponsor Ken Wolcott on January 20th. Wolcott apprised Supervisor Fudoli that municipalities expressed interest in using his facility for police officers to qualify.

Supervisor Fudoli stated that he called Police Chief (Gerald) Gill and asked him if he was interested in entertaining the idea since the town board was rejecting the firing range bids; whether this facility was adequate for their (police) use. As Chief Gill said there could be a possibility, Fudoli met with Gill the following Thursday.

Supervisor Fudoli expressed that what he wanted to accomplish was to get a firing range for the police officers to qualify and the proposed range in Depew seemed to be a fit. Chief Gill interjected “to train, not qualify.”

Fudoli declared that for a small fee the owner (Wolcott) would allow the town unfettered access to use the range, to go there four, five times a year to train. He asked Gill whether four times a year would work and Gill responded four to five times a year plus remedial work in between.

After meeting with Gill and several other ranking officers there seemed enough interest to bring this before the board for consideration. “Instead of spending the $800,000 for a range on Pavement, the numbers thrown out by Wolcott were significantly smaller,” said Fudoli. “We are still in the negotiating process with Wolcott, but this is something to look at. This is a viable option. We would make a one-time payment and we would lock in through contract set days that the police would have access with no public involvement.”

“It is something I want the board to consider as opposed to spending $800,000 on the Pavement Road police garage renovation project and the added cost of paying off the interest on a loan. For less than one-tenth of that ($800,000) we could have the ability to serve the same purpose. I invited Mr. Wolcott to attend the work session but he did not make it.”

Councilman Mark Aquino, who also serves as Village of Depew Attorney, interjected that the site plan was already approved by the Village.

Councilman John Abraham asked what the nominal fee was that Supervisor Fudoli earlier referred to. Fudoli responded that the one-shot number being discussed was somewhere between $25,000 - $50,000. He also remarked that an officer had a legitimate concern on the possibility of the business closing in the future. Another officer suggested putting in the contract that the town would put 50% down and pay off the remainder over the next five years to maintain stability.

Councilman Aquino remarked that Wolcott was experienced in the business, was paying $500,000 for the property and would be spending $1.5 million in project total cost to meet all codes and requirements.

Councilman Abraham remarked that one of the reasons for considering having our own police range was to mitigate overtime costs. He asked how this project would affect overtime. Abraham was informed by Officer Michael Cronin, the department’s lead firearms instructor, that that was one of the issues they were trying to resolve over a number of years, namely, not having their own range and paying out overtime. “We are looking to have that 24/7 access because we have people working around the clock. It becomes a scheduling nightmare, especially to get people through the training. It I difficult as it is to find a place to shoot as a lot of the ranges were built 40 – 50 years ago and are inadequate.”

“I did some basic number crunching - over a ten to twenty to 40 year period,” added Cronin. We have to be responsible to the taxpayer. I grew up in this town and I am a taxpayer too. The numbers I ran are for three basic training days a year, plus the overtime spent for the instructor, over forty years. I am crunching around $3.9 million dollars. That would be for any facility we don’t have 24/7 access to; an off-site facility. We have to cram that training in at an off-site facility at their rate and at both our conveniences.”

Supervisor Fudoli: “If we built our own range, are we saying there will be no more overtime? What assurances would the taxpayers have that if we built it overtime would be taken out of the budget so that you can’t have overtime for that purpose, ever?”

Fudoli was told that a lot of times they (police) pull guys off the road so we can do the training, but it is very limited in what we can do.

Fudoli declared that there would be costs associated with maintaining a town range. He was told by a police rep that that was specked out and would cost about $3,000 every ten years to mine the lead out of the building.

Fudoli asked what would happen if there would be system failures and was told “yeah, there could be that also.” He was told that what was of concern is that the police officer in charge could pull a car off the road while he is working and for a few hours have him train, “If it’s busy we can call him and put him back on the road. We can schedule this process consistently, on the time we are working. There may be occasions when we have to do something off-site, but the bulk of it is what I factored into this if we had to do this off site. I am open for options. I am not saying you have to write a blank check, but keep that in mind.”

Another police fire range instructor spoke on the need to have a range that was adequate for the training use of the three weapons the police use – a Glock 45 sidearm, a shotgun and a 223 control rifle that is difficult to use. “We currently train once per year. We would like to train twice per year and have been ramping up to do so. The long time goal is four times per year. We are limited to afternoon hours at the Village when we can because they have offices above and we are limited to weekends and midnights.”

Fudoli: “Having this other option (Wolcott private range in Depew) will that not help that?”

Councilman Aquino interjected that as part of the negotiation with Wolcott Guns the town could specify certain hours of access. “They are a new business and I am sure they would be happy with the lease agreement and be willing to compromise.”

The police countered by stating that the only problem with that is that it does not solve their scheduling nightmare.

Fudoli interjected that he understood the position the police were taking and that the overtime numbers look big but that if the contract is negotiated right the bulk of their concerns can be eliminated. “Mr. Wolcott ensured us there would be flexibility and you are always going to have issues fitting everyone in into any schedule.”

Police rep: “The best solution is to have unrestricted access. That is the best option of all, and probably the most expensive. I am saying the board should look at all options and what the cost will be overall. I still can’t see how we would use that range (Wolcott) and eliminate the scheduling problems that are creating the overtime.

Lastly, concern was brought forth by the police that no instruction room was provided by Wolcott that could be used for instructional training purposes.

Fudoli thanked the police reps for their input and concerns and that the board would take them into consideration.

NEXT: Part II: Residents address board at regular meeting








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