Less bang for the buck

Carroll County: Delay in addressing safety flaws increases cost, timeliness of police rifle range.

June 27, 2000

WHY IT took nine months, or even longer, for state officials to publicly acknowledge serious safety deficiencies in the rifle range at the statewide police training center may never be known.

But why the obvious flaw, of design and layout, went without correction during that period of time is a question to which the public deserves a clear answer.

The state Department of General Services, which oversaw construction of the firearms facilities at the center near Sykesville, now plans to spend up to $2 million to fix a rifle range that was budgeted at $660,000. And to remove some targets, decreasing its value.

The range was to open last fall for use by statewide police and corrections officials. It will now be delayed until next spring.

Opening an unsafe shooting range was never an option. But properly building a safely laid-out and designed range should have been the only option for DGS and the state Police and Correctional Training Commissions, which operates the center.

The problem is with the design and construction of the ground-level rifle range and the shooting tower. Expensive steel and fiber baffling and shielding will be added to prevent errant bullets from escaping the range.

As early as April 1999, the first doubts about safe design were raised by firearms experts. Through October, other experts voiced concerns. In November, serious memos began flying. Last month, the word got out -- still without specific remedy.

Part of the problem is a result of the state's dispute with the general contractor, EnviroServe Inc., over claims for extra work costs. Admissions of design flaws by the state could have affected that case.

From the beginning, the training center has been a sensitive project, long awaited by the law enforcement community. Rifle ranges are common; expertise is widely available. Ample acreage was provided. There is no reason for a $660,000 facility to cost taxpayers four times that amount.

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