STURGIS, SD – After publicly releasing a draft of a letter that would be sent to South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem voicing its opposition to a shooting range being built by the South Dakota Game Fish & Parks in Meade County, the County Commission got what it had angled for; a response.
And the SDGF&P came with a response of its own.
But not before addressing the concerns laid out in the draft letter dated Dec. 21 (see below) from the commissioners; safety, loss of property tax revenue, additional vehicle traffic and maintenance required for county roads.
Tom Kirschenmann, SDGF&P Director of Wildlife said that after studying the state statute that interprets taxation of publicly held property, the SDF&P have determined the approximately 400 acre site located north on Elk Vale Road just into Meade County will remain on the tax rolls, even though it is a public facility. But at what classification and rate is still not known.
Safety concerns were also addressed by those representing the SDGF&P. John Kanta, Terrestrial Section Chief said there are two different safety aspects, operational and maintenance. The position of lanes and adding berming and baffling to insure bullets don’t leave the range and for noise reduction are all a part of the design, said Kanta. He added that other considerations such as no fully automatic weapons, no tracer rounds and no explosive rounds are all restrictions at the shooting range.
“This isn’t going to be a free-for-all. Hours of operation will be posted. There will be security gates, adequate lighting and surveillance cameras. We do intend to patrol this, but not 24/7,” adding, “Our officers have enforcement authority. We don’t expect to have the Meade County Sheriff’s office burdened with service calls from the shooting range.”
It was also noted that Meade County law enforcement will have free use of the shooting range for training and certification purposes. Other law enforcement agencies will be charged a user fee.
He continued, “Dates of use will also be considered carefully. Like the Sturgis Rally. That would not be the best time to hold a shooting event out there.”
He added, “We operate a number of other ranges across the state and there have been no incidents at those ranges. Our track record speaks for itself.”
Finally, regarding additional vehicle traffic and road maintenance, commissioners were told
Finally, regarding additional vehicle traffic and road maintenance, commissioners were told there would be assistance.
“We are willing to partner with the county on upgrades, enhancements and specific maintenance issues that would be required due to an anticipated increase in traffic,” said Kirschenmann. “What exactly that should be in a dollar amount, I can’t say. But we want to have those conversations and see what that would look like.”
If the intent was to get a message across to the SDGF&P by publicly sharing its draft letter to the Governor, it worked, said Kerchaman, who apologized for any perceived lack of communication.
“Whether you send the letter to the Governor or not, I would ask you to give us a chance to work on these issues.” And then added a caveat. “Still, there’s nothing we will say that will change some people’s minds about the shooting range. But we are proceeding. It’s full steam ahead.”
No action was taken by the Meade County Commission.
COPY OF DRAFT LETTER POSTED ON LINE BY THE MEADE COUNTY COMMISSION