Residents Sound off on Joint Police Gun Range

May 22, 2014

In less than two years, University of Virginia, Charlottesville and Albemarle County Police will be able to train more often and side by side.

A $5 million joint police gun range is planned to be built on Milton Road in the location of the outdoor facility currently used by UVa. Police.

The new site, approved by county supervisors and more than halfway funded by the state, will be an indoor facility.

UVa. Police use the current range about two weeks out of the year. Residents say they can feel their windows rattle when officers are training.

Police will have access to the new facility 365 days of the year, 24 hours a day.

Though it'll be indoor, some people who live in the area are concerned about noise and the impact it could have on their property values.

A community meeting was held at the East Rivanna Fire Volunteer Company Thursday evening so residents could voice those concerns with the people associated with the project.

"[My] gut reaction is I don't want it," said Patty Culbertson.

Culbertson lives by the site. She's convinced there's a better place to put the range.

"Monticello's so close, Ash Lawn, Tufton Farm -- it's sort of a rural, tourist attraction for Albemarle County," she said. "I don't quite understand why, for a big, commercial, industrial building, [this] would be the right place for it."

Bonnie Brewer also lives near the Milton site. She says, while she's not thrilled to be so close, putting it there is what's best for the community.

"Really we have to consider the public safety issue. We do not want our officers going to Harrisonburg to train and being out of town," said Brewer.

Right now, officers get shooting practice just once a year on average. That's the minimum standard required by the state.

"It's unacceptable in terms of standards of practices nationwide," said Albemarle County Police Chief Col. Steve Sellers.

The new facility would increase their access to training.

"It's a really exciting thing for us because this is an opportunity for us to build a facility that all three agencies can train in," said UVa. Police Chief Michael Gibson.

Gibson says UVa., Albemarle County and Charlottesville Police collaborate nearly every day. Practicing under one roof will help with teamwork.

"There's no better way to instill confidence in one another than going through that training," said Gibson.

Additionally, the Scottsville Police Department, Charlottesville Sheriff's Department, Albemarle County Sheriff's Department, Regional Jail and Airport Police will have access to the facility.

"This project is important in not only helping us achieve our goals as public safety chiefs, but safeguarding the rights and liberties of people in the community," Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo told the crowd. "To know that the people who are carrying weapons and exercising this amount of authority have been trained the same way, under the same standards with the same quality of care."

After hearing from planners and law enforcement, most people at the meeting agreed the facility will benefit both police and the community, but not everyone walked away sold on the location.

"It hasn't convinced me that I want it across the street from me. It has convinced me that it's necessary somewhere," said Culbertson.

The county board of supervisors have approved the Milton location, but some details like design and use are still being worked out.

Another community meeting is scheduled for July 17 and the East Rivanna Volunteer Fire Company from 6:00 to 7:30 p.m. Renderings of the site are expected to be on display.

Construction is scheduled to begin in February of 2015. The firearms training center is slated to open January of 2016.

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