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Neighbors urge city to keep word on gun range

Neighbors urge city to keep word on gun range

2000 ordinance forbids outdoor shooting; now police say it's necessary

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CITY COUNCIL

Neighbors of the Public Safety Training Center in northwest Omaha want the City of Omaha to keep its promise not to build an outdoor shooting range there.

Short of that, the neighbors want assurances that the range would be safe and not too noisy.

They asked the City Council Tuesday to slow down the process of approving the range to allow further study of noise and safety issues.

"This needs to be studied to a lot more depth," Stan Meradith said.

He was one of about 15 people who live near the Public Safety Training Center who attended a public hearing Tuesday to oppose the range.

Omaha police propose to build the range on the grounds of the training center, at the intersection of Blair High and Rainwood Roads, west of Cunningham Lake.

The range would cost $2.47 million. The city would pay $1.27 million, and the FBI would pay $1.2 million.

Police and city officials say they need the range so officers can train with rifles in an outdoor environment that simulates conditions they could face on the job. They say the city's existing outdoor range, in the Elkhorn area, is aging, in a congested area and not as easily secured as the Public Safety Training Center.

"We desperately need this gun range," Omaha Police Capt. Adam Kyle told the council. "We have to have it."

But city ordinance specifically forbids any outdoor shooting at the site. That was a condition in an ordinance the council passed in 2000 approving the training center after a lengthy and heated public discussion.

Omaha Police Chief Todd Schmaderer and Mayor Jean Stothert are asking the council to remove that condition from the ordinance. The council could vote on that proposal next Tuesday.

If the council does so, the city would then go to the Omaha Planning Board to ask for a change in the conditional use permit to allow the outdoor range. That could happen in April.

Councilwoman Aimee Melton and others asked Assistant City Attorney Bernard in den Bosch to meet with the neighbors' attorney and try to address their concerns.

Neighbor Shawn Melotz said her opposition was based on three concerns: the city's promise in 2000, noise and safety. She said the data that the city has provided is not enough to base a good decision on. She urged further study.

Kyle said computer modeling and initial testing at the site indicate that the noise level would be below what is allowed under city code, even without the noise-control measures planned for the site.

Kyle said roofs over firing areas, along with berms and other safety measures, would make it impossible for bullets to be fired off the site. And he said sound-baffling materials under the roofs would reduce the noise.

Meradith said he was disappointed in the process and disheartened by the city's change from its vow to neighbors.

"The idea that you're wanting to be open and transparent and a good neighbor, I'm sorry, I don't buy it," Meradith said.

In den Bosch said the city is not hiding anything from neighbors. He also said that government officials and policing have changed since 2000.

Contact the writer: 402-444-1057, christopher.burbach@owh.com

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