Politicians in Eastern Connecticut believe they have the perfect solution to the controversial decision of where to put a state police gun range: at the existing National Guard firing range in East Haven.
Problem is East Haven isn’t crazy about that idea.
Griswold First Selectman Kevin Skulczyck and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney don’t want the gun range to be where the state wants it – in Griswold. They have been pushing East Haven as what they term the “common sense” alternative.”
But state officials said there are big differences between a National Guard firing range and a state police one — and they don’t believe East Haven is a suitable location.
East Haven’s mayor agrees.
While Mayor Joe Maturo Jr. said he hadn’t heard about the gun range proposal and will “reserve further comment,” he added: “I will point out that the current range is located in the Farm River flood prone area. Certainly during periods of significant river flooding, the range is one of the first locations in that neighborhood to be found under water.”
Beyond that, Maturo declined to comment further on the subject — “for now.”
Skulczyck came to Hartford last week to “fight this project.” He said he wanted Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and other state officials to “listen to the people of Griswold and stop this process.”
Griswold residents, back in June in a non-binding referendum, voted 437 against to 63 in favor of the gun range proposal.
“The proposed state police gun range has been a hot topic in the town of Griswold,” said Skulczyck, who is also running for the House of Representatives.
The state Department of Administrative Services wants to buy a 113-acre parcel of privately owned forest and farm land on Lee Road as a site for a new State Police training facility. The current facility in Simsbury is in a flood zone and repeated flooding and mold led to condemnation and demolition of the classroom building on the property.
Opposition from Griswold residents to the plan has been loud and ongoing, with opponents citing concerns ranging from noise and lead pollution to road maintenance costs and disruption of wildlife habitats in the nearby Pachaug State Forest.
“I want to be very clear that I support the Connecticut State Police and the need for training,” Skulczyck said. “I believe that Congressman Joe Courtney has provided options for the East Haven facility to be utilized. This is common sense.”
“It will save taxpayers millions of dollars,” continued Skulczyck. “I would rather provide the Connecticut State Police rank and file with funding for equipment needs such as long rifles and body armor.”
Courtney, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that instead of building the new gun training facility, the state should consider using already existing locations, such as the National Guard firing range in East Haven and a dynamic shooting range in Simsbury.
Utilizing the East Haven facility more would make it less of a target for potential closure by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, Courtney said.
State officials have contended that the East Haven National Guard site would not meet the state police’s training needs because police are trained to react differently in a shooting than Army personnel.
But Courtney said he finds that explanation “hard to understand.”
A state website that addresses questions about the training facility suggests that using other sites isn’t a possibility.
The explanation on the site says: “The CT Army National Guard has two training facilities in Connecticut, the East Haven Rifle Range (EHRR) and the Stones Ranch facility in East Lyme. Neither of them is a suitable alternative . . . The Connecticut State Police evaluated both sites extensively before determining their unsuitability. There is no range at Stone’s Ranch and no land to build one. The East Haven Rifle Range was designed to meet the specifications of the National Guard, not the State Police. The differences are significant, and both agencies agree that it cannot be modified to meet the collective training requirements.”