Two law enforcement agencies in Muscatine County are hoping to have an indoor and outdoor shooting range and indoor training facility come to fruition within the next year. In order to do so, the county would have to commit up to $1 million of its budget toward this.
The law enforcement agencies working on this proposal together are the Muscatine police Department and the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Department. This idea came about five years ago after the old shooting range they shot at closed down said Muscatine Police Chief Tony Kies.
“What I am looking for today is a financial commitment on a range that is going to cost approximately $2 million for a range and a training facility,” Kies said. “This training facility will be used to conduct a lot of mandatory trainings and qualifications for county deputies and city officers as well.”
The trainings are state minimum requirements law enforcement has to do every year, he added. Having a training facility at the shooting range would allow safer and more effective trainings for the officers in the communities.
Currently, there isn’t a training facility available in the area to host 24 officers at, Kies said. Instead of paying officers to travel to trainings it would allow the city and county to host trainings for each agency.
Supervisor Nathan Mather asked Kies where the shooting range/facility would be located. Kies said he wouldn't be able to discuss this publicly but would do so in a closed session with the supervisors in June.
“Do you have an itemized list on that complete cost so we can see that complete breakdown?” Supervisor Danny Chick asked Kies.
“I will be able to explain all of that to you in closed session,” Kies responded. “If we start breaking acres and talking about pricing there’s a couple of different properties that we’ve identified that would not be good for the city or county at this time but I do have this broke down for a closed session.”
Chick asked Kies where the police department and sheriff’s department shoot at.
Kies said currently at the West Liberty Gun Club but there isn’t a training facility there for them to use. The gun club has an outdoor area with bays and shoots with the public.
“This would be an exclusive law enforcement training facility and range,” Kies said.
Supervisor Jeff Sorensen asked Kies if he anticipated offering other cities and counties to use this training facility. Kies said he would ask those entities to help with the upkeep of the gun range.
Supervisor Kirk Kirchner asked Kies how much it was to use the West Liberty Gun Club. Kies said each law enforcement agency pays them $700. They have also shot at a salvage yard but are there are ricochet issues there.
Chick asked Kies what he was looking for financially from the county.
“I’m looking for a 50 percent match with the city,” Kies responded. “Our hopes is not to exceed $2 million but probably at some time we’ll have to discuss a contingency so we’re probably looking probably at a million dollar split. A million from the county and a million from the city.”
Chairman Scott Sauer asked Kies if there was any grant funding available. Kies said grants were very limited for this type of thing. They were struggling to get grant money to replace the police department’s bulletproof vests.
“We do seem to be able to get leeway through our community,” Kies said. “We’ve had very good grant support from members of our community stepping up.”
Sorensen asked Kies when the funds would need to be available for this project.
“It would be great if by next spring we could start building this facility,” Kies replied.
Sorensen asked Kies what size the training facility would be. Kies said they had hoped for a 60 x 80 foot facility but now more likely it could be 40 x 60 foot facility.
“We’re going to maximize the facility with the dollars we have left with the project so that would be the last piece we build,” he added.
The land for the shooting range and dirt would need to be moved first, Kies said.
Chick asked Muscatine County Sheriff Quinn Riess if they were able to do some training but also saw the ricochet issues and couldn’t do all the trainings they wanted.
Sauer asked Riess and Kies what neighboring counties were doing. Kies said the Davenport Police Department has an indoor gun range but the ventilation system for that alone was $500,000.
Chick and Sorensen both wondered where the money for this project would come from, especially with the timeline of the project beginning next year.
“We’ve had some discussion about that and our assumption if you guys are interested in moving forward probably in next year’s budget we would bond for that,” Muscatine County Administrative Services Administrator Nancy Schreiber said.
If funds are needed before then, the City of Muscatine would have to cover the costs until the bond is done, she added.
Sorensen said any project costing over $750,000 needing bonds for funding would have to be publicly voted on, which could be a challenge.
“Even though you have board support public referendums are always a crap shoot,” he added.
Sauer said he supported the project.
Kies said he was just asking for a commitment for the funding of the training facility and shooting range. He said he doesn’t plan to move forward to speak with the city until he had an idea whether or not the county would support it.
Supervisor Nathan Mather asked Muscatine County Attorney Jim Barry what else would need to be discussed in closed session besides real estate transactions. Barry said just real estate would be discussed during the closed session. Everything else like the bidding part of the project would be discussed in a public session.
Muscatine County Administration Manager Nancy Schreiber said she needed to know if the board was committed to move forward with this project. She reminded them all the details with the City of Muscatine needed to be worked out.
“I’m in favor of the project but to spend a million dollars I need to understand the breakdown of what we’re doing before I can even be on board for that,” Chick said.
Sorensen said Kies was asking for a commitment up to a million dollars but the cost could come in lower than that.
Schrieber asked for a motion from the board of supervisors for a commitment of up to a million dollars for the shooting range and indoor training facility.
Mather asked when the money from the county would need to be made available for this.
Kies said as long as the land was purchased and the project was moving forward he didn’t think the money would be needed in the next three months.
“It didn’t seem real loose to me,” Mather replied.
Sorensen made the motion to commit up to a million for the acquisition of property and construction for a training facility for law enforcement in Muscatine County.
The motion was second by Kirchner.
Mather asked Barry what this motion officially made the county responsible for. Barry said what Sorensen said and the agreement between the city and county and other agencies.
There are a lot of pieces that need to come together in order for this project to move forward but without a commitment from the board it would go nowhere, Sauer said.
“And what has the city committed to?” Mather asked Kies.
“It was $750,000 the first time we looked at this,” Kies said.
Kies believed there was $1.4 million budgeted for this and would ask them to contribute to half of the cost for this project.
Mather said he would be comfortable with having the same commitment as the City of Muscatine.
“I’m just not sure where we would get this money from,” Mather added.
Mather asked Muscatine County Budget Coordinator Kala Naber where the money would come from.
She said from capital projects but the county had several large projects coming up.
“That would have to be bumped presumably?”
Naber said yes.
Mather said he was all for having the indoor training facility and shooting range but would like more certainty on where the money would come from in the county’s budget for it.
Sorensen said Mather was either for or against the project. The budget for the project would be discussed in a closed session with Kies on June 16.
Mather questioned the reasoning for discussing the budget during the closed session. He wanted to know where the money would come from in the county’s budget for this project, especially with the amount of money being asked for.
Schreiber said from an administrative perspective it didn’t make sense to put much effort into this item unless they had direction from the board to do so.
Sauer said having a project like this begin in a year was at best optimistic. He was looking at this being a 50 percent share between the county and City of Muscatine.
The original motion to approve a commitment of up to $1 million for the acquisition of land for an indoor training facility and shooting range was approved unanimously by the supervisors.