PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Neighbors of the gun range police use to train are asking for it to be shut down.
David Durante lives on Lathers Avenue and says there is no way a range should ever have been constructed there. He argues that the range is too close to a residential neighborhood, has too few acres, and the backstops aren't compliant with the city's bylaws.
"I've never seen a land use so dangerous and outlandish than placing a shooting ranging in a residentially zoned neighborhood," Durante said.
Durante boasts of some 16 years serving on the Lee Planning Board and is challenging the range. He said if he, as a resident, did the same thing with the same piece of property he'd be shut down immediately. He wants the same to be done with the police.
"There is a real possibility that somebody could be killed," Durante said. "Let's close the shooting range. Let's close it now. Let's close it before somebody gets hurt."
Thomas Fiscella agrees. The two men and other residents called for a closure of the range at the City Council meeting on Tuesday and pleaded their case to the councilors.
"I realize they have to shoot someplace but not there. It is about safety for our children, our veterans, our families, our environment. It is an illegal range and it needs to be closed immediately before someone gets seriously hurt," Fiscella said.
Fiscella, flanked by his daughter, focused his remarks solely on the safety aspect of the range.
The shooting range on Utility Drive, off Holmes Road, is utilized by not only Pittsfield Police but a number of other agencies as well. Police Chief Michael Wynn said the Berkshire County Special Response Team and the Western Mass K9 Working Group uses the range. Every few years the department will host a firearms instructor class and a few neighboring departments will use it.
Wynn added that the shooting range isn't solely for police use but that the general public has used it as well.
"All of our sworn personnel utilize that range. In addition, the Berkshire County Special Response Team uses the same facility. Occasionally, the Western Mass K-9 Working Group will also train there, but not always live fire. In addition to our personnel, our trainers occasionally hold qualification courses for other departments that don't have in-house training staff. There are a couple of neighboring departments that ask to use the range periodically. Over the past year plus, due to scheduling conflicts, the Western Mass Academy has also used our range for the last two basic Recruit Officers Courses," Wynn said.
Wynn said the frequency of use depends on the training cycle. He said right now the cycle is firearms focused and officers have been out there several days a week since mid-May, which has been coupled with an instructors course running at the same time. But, "that cycle is wrapping up."
The department has been using the range since 1999 and Wynn said he has fielded complaints from neighbors in the past and had modified the schedule somewhat to alleviate issues — particularly by limiting shooting and weekends and in the evening.
The chief said the department is looking at other options but said the department doesn't "really have anywhere else to look."
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