Willington residents traveled to the Legislative Office Building in Hartford on Tuesday to make sure that lawmakers and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy were aware they didn’t want the state to relocate the state police shooting range to their town.
“We want Gov. Malloy and the state to know we oppose building a police training facility in Willington,” Mitzi Horowitz said at a rally outside the Legislative Office Building.
Republican state Sen. Tony Guglielmo, whose district also includes Willington, said it’s more than a “Not In My Backyard” issue for residents. He said it’s a fiscally bad decision to build another state police training facility when other facilities already exist. He said there are so many places in the state where state police can practice and maintain their marksmanship that there’s no need to build a new one.
The current state police shooting range is in a floodplain in Simsbury along the Farmington River.
Guglielmo suggested that state police should be able to complete their training at a shooting range near their home, instead of having to travel to one in another part of the state.
“There are so many ranges — wouldn’t it make more sense to qualify at a range near their own area?” Guglielmo asked.
Willington First Selectwoman Christina Mailhos said she’s been told it will cost the state $700,000 to study the environmental impact of the range proposed for private properties in either Willington or East Windsor, which has been identified as another possible location.
Mailhos said Willington is everything to the residents who live there. She said the value of the homes and property around the 326-acre location off Ruby Road would be diminished if a shooting range is constructed there.
“It’s bad for the environment. It’s a bad fiscal decision,” Mailhos said.
Ray Crossen, who owns Wilderness Lake Campground in Willington, said the shooting range will impact property values and it will come off the tax rolls if the state purchases it.
The area surrounding the shooting range and training facility will be “polluted with noise” and the town will be impacted economically, Crossen said.
A large group of Willington residents attended the state Bond Commission meeting even though the money for the environmental impact study was not on the agenda Tuesday. They sat quietly in their blue shirts and waited to hear what Malloy and a handful of lawmakers would say.
Asked about the group’s presence at the Legislative Office Building, Malloy acknowledged that there’s a process in place to site a training facility for state police.
“I think local concerns have to be heard,” Malloy said. “Absolutely no decision has been made with respect to where this facility will go. Nowhere near a decision, quite frankly.”
Malloy said the process of finding a new location for the range will continue to be public.
Stephanie Summers, a Willington resident who helped organize Tuesday’s rally, said she was encouraged by Malloy’s statement that it’s a process and the state is still looking at other sites beyond Willington and East Windsor.
Rep. Chris Davis, R-East Windsor, said his town has also made it known that they don’t see the benefit of a state police facility being located in their community.
“Is it really in the best interest in the state of Connecticut to purchase private land in order to site this facility when other state property might be available?” Davis said.
He said he was encouraged to hear that the state would consider other properties.