Commissioners sign off on one-week return to controversial site
Students in Colorado Mountain College’s law enforcement training program will return to a shooting range near the Pitkin County landfill that was shuttered about 18 months ago because of noise complaints from nearby residents.
The Pitkin County commissioners Tuesday allowed the CMC program to return to the site for about a week after Sheriff Joe DiSalvo and Snowmass Village police officer Todd Haller made a last-minute, emergency plea.
The return is necessary because the city of Glenwood Springs recently shut down the main shooting range CMC uses in the South Canyon area because of fire danger, DiSalvo said. Also, the shooting range in Basalt does not conform to law enforcement standards, the sheriff added.
With trainees approaching the end of the program, shooting is required before they can be certified as officers, he said. Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor, who also attended the meeting, said it would be a huge waste of time and money to go through nearly 12 weeks of training only to be stymied by the final step.
Pryor’s department and the sheriff’s office each have two people being trained. A total of 17 trainees from the Western Slope will use the range, commissioners were told.
Gunfire, which led to the complaints from residents in Woody Creek and Aspen Village that resulted in the range being moved to South Canyon, will resume Thursday, Haller said. They will use the range the following day and on Monday through Friday of next week. About three hours of the eight-hour days will involve trainees shooting revolvers and 9mm handguns.
CMC wanted to be able to use the range until 11:45 p.m. on two nights for requisite night exercises, a facet that the commissioners quickly nixed. However, commissioners allowed the trainees to use the range until 10 p.m. on those two nights, commissioners decided.
Ending at a quarter of midnight “is just way too late,” Commissioner George Newman said, adding that it would be a “tremendous negative impact” on families.
The exercises will not involve automatic weapons, but there will be 10 trainees firing handguns at one time, something that can sound like automatic weapons, DiSalvo said. It was rifle fire that drew most of the original complaints, and those won’t be used in this training, DiSalvo said.
Commissioner Rachel Richards said the county should looking into sound-reduction efforts to assuage residents. DiSalvo, however, said the county did consider that before the range was shuttered.
“We looked into stacks of tires, dirt berms, etc., and it turned out it would be spending a lot to do very little,” he said. “It would not be enough to [reduce the noise] for Woody Creekers.”
Newman said he could support the return to the range on an emergency basis given the South Canyon site’s sudden closure. But he said he doesn’t want every law enforcement trainee on the Western Slope returning to the site like before.
Commissioner Michael Owsley, however, said he couldn’t support even a temporary return.
“We just got this solved, and I can’t go back to Woody Creek and explain why there now is a week-long training,” he said. “It isn’t about noise. It’s about gunshots in your neighborhood causing you to flinch. I can’t support it at all.”
DiSalvo said he understood that the range is a hot-button issue. But “we have to get across the finish line somehow,” he said, referring to the completion of the training.
The commissioners allowed the return, but instructed the officers to limit gunfire to between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. They also said there should be a better-defined schedule that can be communicated to the public.