Greene County, Greeneville To Pursue Grant For Upgrades At Hal Henard Road Firing Range
BY KRISTEN BUCKLES
Greene County is on its way to potentially having a greatly expanded and improved firing range following action Monday by the Greene County Commission and the Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
The County Commission and the Greeneville Board met jointly Monday and voted separately to authorize both County Mayor Alan Broyles and Greeneville Mayor W.T. Daniels to apply for a federal grant to carry out the proposed changes at the existing firing range.
The two legislative bodies took the action after Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA) official Jerry Strom contacted the county concerning federal grant funds that would be available for such a project.
Strom, a Greeneville resident and a 35-year staff member of the TWRA, told both governmental bodies at the Greene County Courthouse that there is a "preponderance" of funds available to local government from the federal excise tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition.
These funds are available for the expansion and renovation of local firing ranges, he said.
The grant funds, though provided from federal excise taxes, would come through the TWRA.
If approved, the grant would pay for 75 percent of an agreed-upon project, with the county and city responsible for the remaining 25 percent.
No specific amount for the grant was mentioned at the County Commission meeting, but Strom said last week in an interview that the proposed amount of the grant would be $1,000,000.
The current firing range, located on Hal Henard Road, is on an approximately 48-acre piece of property owned 70 percent by the county and 30 percent by the town, according to Mayor Daniels.
County Attorney Roger Woolsey said that the county and town would retain ownership of the property but would need to later approve a contract stating that this would the be property's sole purpose, making it unavailable for any other usage.
"In all candor, I can't think of any other use of that property," he said.
Use of the land and in-kind labor would likely comprise the entire 25-percent local match, Strom said.
He noted that additions would include, most notably, an education center with classrooms for hunter education and other classes, new trap and skeet shooting fields, and other overall improvements.
"I find that it's a very good marriage between the goals of the agency (TWRA) to reach our youth and to augment the training of our law enforcement and future law enforcement," he said.
The current range is about 30 years old, according to Sheriff Steve Burns.
It is now used most by law enforcement officials for training and practice, but has a few organized public uses, such as for local high school trap shooting teams.
However, the current range does not meet the regulations set by sports shooting associations, putting Greene County at a "great disadvantage" at competitions, Strom said.
County Commissioner Robert Bird asked whether there would be restrictions and regulations regarding usage of the range that are determined by the grant.
Strom said that the facility will be primarily geared to education, with the classrooms, along with facilities for trap shooting, possibly archery, and renovations to enhance law enforcement training.
He added that it would be up to the county to determine who uses the new firing range and under what conditions.
He said, however, that such a facility would need oversight and regulation and that it could be "foolhardy" to let anyone just walk in to use the range.
County Commissioner Ted Hensley asked whether there would be any environmental impact.
Strom said that environmental impact should be minimal since there is already an existing range, meaning that the property is already lead-contaminated.
Any other usage for the property would require that the land first be remediated, he said.
Without any change to the property, however, the lead should not "go anywhere" to present a problem, and noise should not be an issue since there is a large timber buffer with no close residential areas, he said.
Mayor Daniels, County Commissioner Tim White, TWRA Officer James McAfee and others praised the potential impact of expanding trap shooting teams to the high schools, calling it a "gentleman's game" and an opportunity for scholarships.
Walters State Community College President Dr. Wade McCamey praised the proposed grant and its potential, and offered the college grant-writer's services to the county and the town.
He said that the college will be interested in the improved firing range for a scholastic clay target program, and for the WSCC law enforcement academy program and handgun carry permit program.
The college could lease the facility and would pay for any clay targets or other expendables they consume while using the facilities, he added.
The Greeneville Board of Mayor and Aldermen, with Alderman Darrell Bryan absent, unanimously approved Daniels' negotiating with the county and with the appropriate federal agencies to try to obtain the grant.
The County Commission, on a 20-1 vote, authorized Mayor Alan Broyles to do the same, with only County Commissioner Rennie Hopson opposed.
Strom said last week in an interview that the amount of the grant request would be a million dollars.
The Greene County Commission also approved other items on the agenda, including;
* employing a third-party auditor to review the county's hotel/motel tax collection, at a cost of up to $10,000, to be taken proportionately from the various beneficiaries of the tax (including tourism, economic development, debt service, recreation and performing arts);
* budgeting $30,000 in fines and forfeitures collected from drug violations for HVAC and roof repairs at the Crime Lab; and
* budgeting $17,000 in fees from sexual offenders to the Sheriff's Department's budget for office supplies to administer the registry.
The commission tabled another resolution to allocate money from hotel/motel tax collections exclusively to the Niswonger Performing Arts Center (NPAC)
That money is currently designated to "Performing Arts," which includes annual contributions to the NPAC, Central Ballet, Dickson-Williams Historical Association and the Nathanael Greene Museum. (For more information, please see Wednesday's issue of The Greeneville Sun.)
The commission also approved applications for notaries, but pulled one for further review to determine if the individual, of Newport, works in Greene County.
Broyles also appointed three commissioners to a recently formed audit committee: Bill Moss, Nathan Holt and John Waddle.
All three have accounting experience.
The next meeting of the County Commission is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 21.