SEABROOK — After meeting weekly since its creation six months ago, the Gun Range Committee has established several measures to address selectmen’s safety concerns, among other issues, so the town firing range can reopen.
The committee met with Town Manager Bill Manzi and selectmen Monday morning. Selectwoman Theresa Kyle was absent.
The committee presented seven responses to recommendations from selectmen to address safety and management practices at the firing range. Some of the land the range sits on is in Kensington but owned by Seabrook.
In January, town officials chose to keep the firing range closed because of a lack of oversight, safety and accountability. The range has been closed since the previous winter after a stray bullet hit the window of a nearby hardware store, CP Building Supply, at 268 Amesbury Road.
Kensington Police Chief Scott Cain said his department investigated the incident. He noted that when the incident was reported, someone at the hardware store said this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened.
The committee will oversee the firing range as a “watchdog group” and liaison between selectmen and others involved, said Don Felch, chair of the committee. The committee will use Exeter Rod and Gun Club’s safety standards with adjustments for the location made as recommended by acting Seabrook Police Chief Brett Walker.
The firing range plans to operate as a club, requiring a $30 fee to become a member. Selectwoman Ella Brown questioned if Seabrook residents would have priority over other towns to apply and Felch said it’s unlikely for the time being.
The committee hopes to reclaim much of the cost required to fund the range’s reopening, which Felch estimated at $40,000.
The town’s Conservation Commission donated $50,000 in initial funding to reopen the facility, Felch said. Over time, the range will repay the Conservation Commission through membership fees, he added.
The range will use “best environmental practices,” according to Felch, who said the group reviewed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for shooting ranges.
The group will also work with the state Department of Environmental Services since the range is located near the town’s water treatment facility. The committee will purchase three bullet traps to reduce the impact of pollution, Felch said.
“They’re not cheap, but I think they’re well worth the money,” said Felch, who added that lead bullets will no longer be used. The traps will reclaim about 99 percent of lead, he noted.
The range plans to install security cameras and a card swipe system for opening the gate. Before that can happen, a custodial officer will oversee the range, Felch said.
Background checks would be required for those using the range, Felch said. The committee hopes to review 100 applications at a time to monitor the new procedures and congestion at the range.
“All new applicants must attend a range orientation,” Felch said.
“We want to make sure all new members are on the same page concerning safety, the do’s and don’ts. It’s a good measure for keeping everyone together.”
Selectmen and the town manager agreed the committee put in hard work to make the range financially independent from taxpayer funding and met safety procedures.
Cain and Kensington Selectwoman Vanessa Rozier addressed their concerns about safety, health and the range’s environmental impact.
“Thanks for including us in the process of working through the issues of the firing range,” Rozier said. “We do appreciate it.”
Cain asked if there would be a limit on what firearms could be used. Felch noted that no .50-caliber or fully automatic weapons would be allowed at the range.
Although there is not a specific reopening date, town officials agreed the firing range committee is on the right track in improving the facility. The group plans to meet with selectmen again at their July meeting.
For a previous story on the issue, visit https://www.newburyportnews.com/news/local_news/seabrook-gun-range-deemed-unsafe/article_5e2167e8-9b7c-5208-a631-243e5eeb2637.html
Staff writer Amanda Getchell covers Newburyport and Seabrook. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.