County planning upgrades to gun range

The Anoka County Sheriff’s Office gun range will be renovated.

The existing gun range will be replaced by a new facility at a cost of $787,654 in action approved unanimously by the Anoka County Board Nov. 27 on the recommendation of its Finance and Capital Improvements Committee.

Specifically, the county board authorized the issuance of a purchase order to Home Depot through an Anoka County US Communities contract totaling $386,679 to construct the new gun range with usable classroom, office and storage space.

In addition, the board approved a purchase order to Advanced Training Systems in the amount of $400,975 to buy appropriate target systems and knee walls for the gun range.

According to information provided to the county board by Andrew Dykstra, county facilities management and construction director, the purchase order with Advanced Training Systems includes 27-lane handgun, running man and nine-lane rifle target systems.

He hopes that the weather will allow the project to get under way this fall, Dykstra said.

“We hope to be open next spring,” said Anoka County Sheriff James Stuart.

The cost of the project is coming from the Anoka County building fund, Dykstra said.

In a report to the county board, he said the gun range, which is located in Coon Rapids near the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office Public Safety Complex, was opened in 1981 and remodeled in 1991, but there have been no major maintenance or updates since.

More than 450 law enforcement officers, not just in Anoka County, use the range, and many military and law enforcement agencies outside the county rent the range, according to Dykstra.

But because of the condition of the range, outside agencies are decreasing their usage and there has been a loss of revenue from rentals which will continue to decline under present conditions, Dykstra said.

Indeed, Dykstra in his report to the board described the range as “in a state of disrepair” and inadequate for space needs.

And measures have also been taken to deal with immediate liability concerns – completion of lead abatement and rectifying electrical issues, Dykstra said.

But he wrote that closing the range would cost more than upgrading it to meet current federal standards because ongoing annual training costs would increase substantially with the use of alternate sites.

Instead of the several temporary buildings – Stuart calls them portable sheds – that comprise the gun range now, the project will construct a single-multi-purpose concrete building for range operations, according to Dykstra.

The amenities of the project, including in-ground heating, will make it more attractive for rental use, Dykstra said.

The new structure, with classroom, office and storage space, will total 2,040 square feet, he said.

According to Stuart, the need for a new gun range was identified some years ago and work has been ongoing to get the project included in the county board’s capital improvements program.

In May 2011, a Lino Lakes Police officer was injured when he was struck by a round in an accident at the gun range.

But Stuart said that planning was already under way for the new gun range at that point, although the incident gave the project some momentum.

While law enforcement agencies in the county are not charged rent for regular firearms training, they do pay rent if they want to use the range for extra training, he said.

However, law enforcement agencies outside the county do pay rent, so does the military when it wants to use the range for training, Stuart said.

“We have been losing rental revenue for the past several years,” he said.

He hopes the new gun range will reverse that trend and the sheriff’s office can increase rental revenue to offset some of the costs of operating and maintaining the gun range that are part of the sheriff’s office budget, although the revenue will never cover all the costs, Stuart said.

Peter Bodley is at peter.bodley@ecm-inc.com

 
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