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Editorial: New shooting range good for efficiency, safety

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For several years, Franklin residents living on the far side of the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office shooting range have worried that stray bullets could reach their homes. For nearly as long the sheriff’s office has struggled with limited training and storage space.

Now it appears both problems could be remedied with a single project. A plan to build a new training center and redesign the shooting range has been revived and could be completed relatively quickly.

Last year, the county set aside $270,000 to build a two-story pole-barn-type structure for training and storage and to renovate the shooting range at the sheriff’s office, and the plan is to start construction this spring, Commissioner Brian Baird said.

In 2009, county officials discussed building a training facility and upgrading the shooting range as part of an $87 million jail expansion, but the idea was abandoned to cut costs. Instead, the county asked voters to approve a $23 million project to add 400 beds to the jail, which was turned down in 2010.

The new training center has been brought up again in preparation to move emergency dispatch operations for the entire county into the sheriff’s office basement, where sheriff’s deputies currently train. State law requires the county to combine its five dispatch centers by the end of 2014.

The county can build a facility that will be big enough for all deputies to train at the same time, instead of in shifts, and to add a storage area for arrest records the state requires the sheriff’s office to keep, Baird said. Currently, the sheriff’s office pays $300 a month to store those records in an Indianapolis warehouse.

Along with the new building, the county plans to renovate the sheriff’s office shooting range, which is not long enough for deputies to practice shooting larger weapons. The shooting range will be turned, so it no longer points toward residents’ homes.

When county officials resumed discussions about a new training facility last year, the shooting range was not included. But Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox said they added the work to make the range safer for nearby residents.

The training facility will include a first-floor training room that will seat about 120. The current training room can fit about 45 people. Records will be stored on the second floor.

Most likely, the new training facility will be built where the former animal shelter building is, Cox said. In 2009, the Johnson County Animal Shelter moved to a new facility off of Graham Road, and the building behind the sheriff’s office has not been used since. Cox said the building needs to be torn down and putting the new training facility in its place would be easier than constructing it somewhere else, because utilities are already there.

The sheriff’s office has long been plagued with a space issue and with concerns about residents’ safety beyond the shooting range. Erecting a building at the site of the former animal shelter and reorienting the nearby shooting range will solve both problems.

We commend the sheriff and other county officials for crafting an effective solution. It will help with department efficiency and improve safety.

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