Two years after Glastonbury residents fended off a proposal to build a state police shooting range in their town, two other communities are working to make sure it doesn’t come to theirs.
Private property owners in Willington and East Windsor have offered to sell their land to the state for the purpose of siting the range, but the residents and local boards in both towns have recently taken steps to prevent that from happening.
Willington will hold a town meeting Aug. 4 and vote on whether to send the idea of hiring a legal team to oppose the range to referendum on Aug. 18. East Windsor’s town meeting voted 161-8 on July 21 to accept a petition that opposes the range and they plan to send the petition to agency commissioners and its legislative delegation.
The state police have identified a 223-acre, privately owned site on Apothecaries Hall Road in East Windsor as a potential location for the facility. In Willington, Stanley Sadlak offered his 326-acres off Ruby Road as a potential location for a new range. The state police’s current gun range in Simsbury constantly floods, which is why they are looking to build a new one.
Opponents of the Willington location anticipated that borrowing to pay for the Environmental Impact Evaluation would be on Tuesday’s Bond Commission agenda, but it wasn’t. However, that’s not stopping them from coming to the Legislative Office Building at 9 a.m. Tuesday to make their opposition known to lawmakers.
Stephanie Summers, a member of UnWillington Inc., a community group opposed to locating the shooting range in Willington, said she’s concerned about what an increased paramilitary presence and persistent gunfire would mean for her community.
Based on information provided by the state, the new facility would consist of approximately 55,000 square feet of multipurpose training space.
Plans include a main classroom that would fit up to 100 troopers, firearms simulators, and other open space training rooms; an indoor active-shooter training space; gun cleaning and smithing space; staff offices and file storage; storage vaults; a kitchen and dining area to accommodate staff and Troopers; an ammunition reloading area; locker rooms for staff; and various smaller storage areas.
The site, according to a state police presentation to the towns in May, will also include two range control buildings. There will be separate pistol, active shooter, rifle, and shotgun ranges. There will also be approximately 125 parking spaces as well as appropriate water, septic, telecommunication, and electrical systems.
“This is not like the State Police facility in Simsbury,” Summers said. “This is something else altogether, something that promises a disproportionate impact for a rural residential area. Something that puts at risk our families, environment, property values, future development, Historic Zone, schools, health, and quality of life.”
Lawmakers who represent Willington agree it’s not a good fit, but they’re Republican lawmakers, and Democrats control the General Assembly and the governor’s office.
Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford Springs, said in a recent editorial that every taxpayer in the state should be opposed to the project because moving the gun range from Simsbury is expected to cost an estimated $6.5 million to $11 million.
The state is expected to borrow the money for both the shooting range and the environmental impact study. It’s unknown, according to the Department of Administrative Services, exactly how much the environmental study will cost.
“At this point in time we cannot estimate what the cost will be, but it will most likely be in the hundreds of thousands, which will be paid for out of bond funds as part of the project costs,” Jeffrey Beckham, staff counsel and director of communication for DAS, said.
The environmental impact study, which is required by state law, would take place in late 2016, according to Beckham.
But opponents of the range don’t want the process to get that far. They want it to end now.
Guglielmo has proposed having the state police share range time with other municipal police departments or the National Guard. He also asked the Office of Legislative Research to provide him with information about each gun range located on state-owned property, it’s size, when it was last upgraded, and the cost of those upgrades over the last 10 years.
Legislative researchers identified eight shooting ranges.
While located on state-owned property, not all of the ranges are state owned and operated. For example, the range used by the Military Department is federally owned, and the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection operates two ranges located on state property in cooperation with private entities. The ranges used by Departments of Correction and Emergency Services and Public Protection are all state owned and operated.
Guglielmo concluded that “what this proves is that there are many existing shooting range options for our state police. The state however, has to be willing to share.”
Opponents will gather at 9 a.m. outside the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Tuesday.