Noise-reducing baffles not part of design for new police gun range

February 4, 2016

Journal Inquirer

State and local officials, state police, and opponents of siting a police gun range in East Windsor or Willington attend a meeting Tuesday of the legislature’s Public Safety Committee at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford.

HARTFORD — A safety and noise-dampening feature is not part of the current plan for a state police firing range proposed for either Willington or East Windsor.
Residents and officials from East Windsor and Willington made up a majority of the crowd that filled two rooms at the Legislative Office Building on Tuesday, including more than 40 people who arrived via bus from Willington, to attend the Public Safety Committee meeting.

State officials detailed plans for a new gun range, and noted that baffles — a noise-reduction feature in place at a suggested alternate National Guard site in East Haven — are not in the new facility’s design.

Major Gen. Thaddeus Martin of the National Guard said the East Haven facility was designed with baffles to reduce gunfire noise, as well as contain misdirected bullets.

Lt. Marc Petruzzi of Connecticut State Police, said that although there are no specific designs at this point, baffles are not intended to be installed in the new facility.

Stephanie Summers, the president of opposition group unWillington, said it is “laughable” that baffles are not included in the plans for a site that is 1 mile away from the town green and 1½ miles away from a school.

“That’s huge for us,” she said.

As residents in Willington and East Windsor continue to assert that noise and safety concerns could have a negative impact on property values, a range with no baffles will “obviously be more disturbing,” Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford, said.

Read into the record was a letter from U.S. Rep Joseph Courtney, D-2nd District, which praised the “tremendous work” of the state police, but also noted that there is “deep concern” from residents in East Windsor and Willington about the “cloud of uncertainty” surrounding the site selection process.
“I believe that it is critical that the agencies involved consider alternatives to these sites,” Courtney wrote.

Guglielmo raised concern about a recent legal opinion from Willington Town Attorney Caleb Hamel, which asserts the state has violated its own laws by not including municipal agencies throughout the planning process.

He said a 2005 law change was designed to prevent small towns from being forced into a situation by the state.

The law change created priority funding areas, or PFAs, where the state would focus its development efforts because most of the areas have the necessary infrastructure to support state programs.

“Neither Willington nor East Windsor are priority funding areas,” Guglielmo said. “Neither of these two towns fit into the profile.”

Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Melody Curry insisted the state has been “fully compliant with the law,” and that it continues to be open to alternative sites, but has yet to find one that is sufficient.

The state says sites previously considered would limit training time and exercises, and that the East Haven facility and private facilities have been deemed insufficient to meet the needs of troopers.

Furthermore, the proposed sites in each town have willing sellers, which were major factors in choosing them.

The site being considered in Willington is assessed at $2.2 million, according to Guglielmo, and has yet to be purchased.

State Rep. Christopher Davis, R-Ellington, noted that if the state decides on a site, but has yet to purchase it, it could be forced to pay full price for the parcel when faced with no other options.

Jeffrey Beckham, director of communications for the Department of Administrative Services, said the state has allocated $7 million in bonds for the project, and Public Safety Committee members questioned why that money couldn’t be used to improve various facilities throughout the state.

The committee members were told those options were not suitable, Beckham said.

One concern is the necessity of having to share time with other agencies, which would complicate scheduling and could limit access.

Another concern is the lack of space at other sites, which makes certain training exercises impossible, such as practicing jumping out of a moving car during a chase.

However, Guglielmo and Courtney have both said that, after speaking with National Guard representatives, they were told the East Haven facility is capable of meeting the needs of state police.

Guglielmo added that if the troopers intend to establish a training facility in the near future, they might continue to face backlash from communities.

“You know there’s gonna be litigation,” he said, noting that throughout that time, troopers would still be without a suitable training facility.
Hamel said litigation would not be out of the question if the state continues to pursue Willington as a location.

“I think it’s painfully obvious that these communities are not interested in having this firing range,” Sen. Timothy Larson, D-East Hartford, said.

Petruzzi said troopers “highly respect concerns of the community,” and will continue to address those concerns as the project moves toward an environmental impact evaluation.