WNPR

Lawmakers Consider Several Options for New State Police Firing Range

Feb 3, 2016

The legislature's Public Health Committee heard from state officials about the various proposals on the table for a new state police firing range.

For decades, troopers have trained at the state police firing range in Simsbury. But the facility has become outdated, and isn't big enough to accommodate other types of training, like active shooter simulations.

Perhaps the biggest problem with the shooting range is chronic flooding.

"FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Agency] flood maps place the entire Simsbury range facility within the flood plain of the Farmington River," said Lt. Marc Petruzzi, Commanding Officer of State Police Troop H in Hartford. "Normal annual flooding over the history of the facility has created conditions that make its continued use impractical."

The state has focused on two possible sites for the new $7 million facility: one in East Windsor, and another in Willington. Citizens from both communities have said the noise and threat to protected wildlife would have a negative impact on their towns, and have formed citizen action groups to fight the state's plan, UnWillington and Not East Windsor respectively.

On Tuesday, State officials gave lawmakers on the Public Health Committee their case for why the the two sites are ideal for the needs of the state police.

Several panel members, however, were interested in the cheaper alternatives being considered, like raising the current facility above the flood plain, or using the National Guard's firing range in East Haven for training.

Dora Shriro, commissioner of the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, opposed the idea, saying the National Guard would charge the state $885 a day to use the facility. Another problem: the East Haven firing range is not available to state troopers on a regular basis.

"There are 100 days available, and then between October and April, there are 140 days," said Shriro. "We need to train on a continuous basis throughout the year."

State Senator Tony Guglielmo responded that training at an existing facility is a practical and more affordable alternative to building a new facility.

"You know, this isn't perfect," said Guglielmo. "But it's certainly going to be a lot less costly than constructing a whole new facility. And the other part of it is, I would think you would want to start using this new facility sometime soon. I mean, you know there will be litigation."

Guglielmo's comments drew applause from members of UnWillington and Not East Windsor, who attended the hearing.

Melody Currey, commissioner of the Department of Administrative Services -- which is in charge of the siting process -- acknowledged that there are towns elsewhere in the state that are receptive to a new firing range, but said the environmental impact evaluation must be competed in Willington and East Haven before other sites will be considered.