SEABROOK — Selectmen gave the Seabrook Firing Range Committee approval Monday to draft a lease for the land it sits on and open under the new name of the Seabrook Sportsman’s Club.
Don Felch, who volunteered to chair the Firing Range Committee, asked for approval from selectmen to lease the property for the range.
Although the firing range is owned by Seabrook, it’s in Kensington. Selectwoman Ella Brown and Selectman Aboul Khan were receptive to granting approval to draft a lease, but Selectwoman Theresa Kyle questioned where the committee would get the money to do this.
At last month’s selectmen meeting, the Conservation Commission agreed to donate $50,000 to the Firing Range Committee to begin reopening the range, Felch said. Kyle said that type of donation would be illegal.
“I don’t believe the Conservation Commission can legally donate,” Kyle said. “Per the law, you have to be a qualified entity under the U.S. tax code, which you’re not. A qualified entity is clearly defined.”
Kyle also questioned why the Firing Range Committee was “in such a rush” to begin drafting a lease without having any liability insurance or funding secured. Felch noted that without approval from selectmen to seek a lease, buying liability insurance or equipment for the range wouldn’t make sense.
“We need to move the donation money that we verbally have on the table right now, we have to work with the state, do a lot of registration,” Felch said. “Once we can set these things up, we can move forward, we can order the bullet traps to reclaim all the lead” in the ground from target shooting.
After Kyle accused the Firing Range Committee of wanting an “early opening,” Town Manager Bill Manzi clarified that if selectmen grant approval, “You’re not going to open tomorrow. You’re going to start the process.”
The committee could then draft a lease, which would be vetted by the town’s lawyer, and lead to an eventual opening.
Brown and Khan voted to granted approval for the committee to seek and present a lease to selectmen at their next meeting, which the board can either deny or accept. Kyle abstained from the vote.
In addition, Felch said the committee wants to change the name of the firing range to the Seabrook Sportsman’s Club to better fit its new membership program.
“With this new name, we’d like to form this club,” Flech said. “The range committee will assume the role as a club initially, just to get it open. The committee recommended once we get to a level of approximately 100 members, the range committee will assist the new members with implementing an election-type process to create a board of directors or a structure that will form the club.”
There would be a 30-day grace period for Seabrook residents only to become members of the club. After that, residents of other communities would be able to sign up.
“Two weeks ago, I sat in front of you and there were a couple concerns, one being if Seabrook residents would have preference,” Felch said. “The committee took that very seriously and we met again and we came up with this plan.”
After at least 100 members sign up and a board of directors is established, Felch said the Firing Range Committee would serve as an oversight group for operations, safety and financial security between the Seabrook Sportsman’s Club, selectmen and the town manager.
Felch said the committee plans to register as an entity under the federal tax code so it can receive the donation from the Conservation Commission. The group is to present a draft of the lease at the selectmen’s meeting in August.
To read a previous story on the issue, visit https://www.newburyportnews.com/news/local_news/seabrook-firing-range-on-track-to-reopen/article_18334068-b901-5201-81f0-5992d514818b.html
Staff writer Amanda Getchell covers Newburyport and Seabrook. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.