HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut State Police are again facing resistance in their latest attempt to find a location for a new firing range complex, this time by residents of two towns where potential new sites have been identified.
State police recently held public hearings on the plans in Willington and East Windsor, where officials and residents have voiced concerns about noise, safety and lead pollution from bullets.
A site in Glastonbury was eliminated two years ago amid similar opposition.
Plans call for a 55,000-square-foot building with indoor shooting areas, classrooms and other facilities, as well as separate outdoor ranges for pistols, rifles, shotguns and active shooter training — a complex much larger than the current one in Simsbury. A cost estimate for the new range complex hasn’t yet been calculated.
“They’re talking about a huge shooting facility and training facility that’s unprecedented in Connecticut,” said Willington resident Donald Parizek, who lives about a mile from the site off Route 320 near the center of town.
“The sound is going to echo off the hills into surrounding towns,” he said. “A quiet town I’ve lived in all my life wouldn’t be the same. It would be shattered by the whole project.”
Parizek, 50, a soil scientist, also said he is concerned about property values going down and lead from bullets polluting residential wells and Conant Brook, which feeds into the Willimantic River.
Willington selectmen voted unanimously against the project earlier this month.
Similar concerns have been voiced in East Windsor, where the potential site is located off a rural section of Apothecaries Hall Road. First Selectman Denise Menard said in a recent report that many residents have contacted her about the shooting range and most are opposed.
State police say the agency has to have a firing range because all troopers are required to qualify for using guns before graduating from the police academy and have to re-qualify each year.
All troopers currently receive firearms training and credentialing at the Simsbury range near the Farmington River, which is prone to flooding. Floods in 2007 and 2011 each caused up to $400,000 in damage to the range, state police said.
“The site in Simsbury is currently inadequate,” said Sgt. Shane Hassett, the state police spokesman. “State troopers have been working out of trailers on the site because of the flooding, and the fact that it would cost too much money to repair.”
Hassett declined to comment on residents’ concerns, saying environmental impact studies for the two sites are still in the works and will identify any potential problems.
Although residents of Willington and East Windsor appear overwhelmingly opposed to the complex, the project could go forward in either town because of a state law that overrides local zoning regulations and allows siting of state facilities.
A process is set in the Connecticut Environmental Policy Act that includes environmental impact evaluations of sites, a 45-day public comment period on those evaluations followed by approval from the state Office of Policy and Management.
Hassett said the environmental reviews of the shooting range sites are expected to be completed in late fall.
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