BY ANNA JOHNSON, News & Observer (Jan. 13, 2020)
The N.C. Wildlife Resource Commission is expected to manage public access to Wake County’s shooting range until a full-time vendor can be found.
Wake County staff recommended Monday the commission take over, though the Wake County Board of Commissioners will need to vote to formalize the agreement.
The Wildlife Commission partners with Pender and Cleveland counties for outdoor ranges and has helped fund other shooting ranges within the state.
The Wake County Firearm Education and Training Center, located outside Holly Springs, was managed by Range Safety Management (RSM) before Wake Sheriff Gerald Baker abruptly ended its contract in mid-December. The sheriff’s office alleged financial concerns, though RSM has disputed those claims.
The sheriff planned to close the center to the public and had previously expressed interest in converting the range into a Law Enforcement Firing Range Simulation Center.
A few days later, Wake County Manager David Ellis announced the county would take control of the range from the sheriff’s office and determine whether the public will be allowed to shoot at the indoor range.
“I am very comfortable with the sheriff’s office, other law enforcement and the public continuing using the facility at the earliest opportunity,” said Wake County Commissioner Sig Hutchinson Monday. “It is a great resource for the citizens of Wake County.”
Fred Stough, one of the co-owners of RSM, listened to the county’s presentation and said he didn’t care if his company managed the center as long as it remains open to the public. After the meeting, he wished the Wildlife Commission luck.
Wake County Commissioner Vice Chair Vickie Adamson said she spent a lot of time learning about the center. She said there are many government facilities that are taxpayer-funded without being accessible to the public.
The Wake County Board of Commissioners heard from about 30 people last week who want to keep the gun range open to the public.
Other law enforcement agencies also use the center, but the sheriff’s office oversees their involvement.
The fees that other law enforcement agencies pay to train at the shooting range is “inconsistently applied,” said Kelli Braunbach, Wake County’s General Service Administration director. Wake County should review those fees, she said, but keep them the same until a long-term service provider is found.
Wake County staff also recommended that scheduled training for other law enforcement agencies continue; establishing an agreement with the sheriff’s office for the center’s use; and using a consultant to find a long-term partner to manage the center.