Ledyard - The town's police department is looking to use a vacant acre of land behind the landfill as a rifle and handgun shooting range for police use only.
Detective Christopher Cadro met with members of the Land Use/Planning/Public Works Committee Tuesday to discuss the police department's proposal, which is still in its initial phase. The town's Resident State Trooper Sgt. James Gilman already has met with the Community Services Committee.
Currently, members of the Ledyard Police Department train at the shooting range on the Naval Submarine Base in Groton, but Cadro said that range does not meet the needs of the department.
"It's a static range. It may be sufficient for the Navy but not for 2012 police training," Cadro said. "In that situation, you stand in one spot and put holes in a piece of paper. We'd like the ability to have officers move around to incorporate tactical movement. It's not the easiest thing with all your gear on to exit your cruiser, find cover and take action."
Training behind the landfill for high risk events would allow police to train for situations involving active shooters at greater distances and in low light, and to learn how to use their own cars as a barricade. The ideal range also would allow the use of police dogs on site, all aspects of training the sub base cannot accommodate, Cadro said.
He also said the police department used to train at the Ledyard Sportsman Club, but the department has "been advised to no longer use that club" to train because of an incident involving stray bullet rounds that were found near Center Drive and Fairway Drive several years ago.
He also said that the club was charging the police $100 per person to train there and that it was costing the department $2,200 a year.
The closest tactical training range is the state police rifle range in Meriden. If the range is approved in Ledyard, there would be no cost to the officers, the officers would not have to leave town to train, and the town could offer combined training to other police departments that also have to travel for training.
Mayor John Rodolico said the idea of regionalization of emergency and police services is an attractive option for the town and that this could serve as a catalyst for future discussions. But Rodolico immediately questioned the cost of constructing the shooting range, saying that nothing comes for free.
"I don't doubt that there are good arguments for this range. These things just tend to grow once they're established. I just want to make sure everybody thinks this through and down the road we're not asking ourselves what have we gotten into here," he said.
Cadro said he already has spoken with Public Works Director Steven Masalin, who told him that the town could provide the equipment and time to install it without additional costs.
The proposed rifle and handgun range site will incorporate a 1,600 yard buffer beyond the shooting area, which extends in a southwesterly direction.
Cadro said that the police department went door to door to speak with the residents in the immediate area and that they didn't encounter anyone with objections.
Police officers are required to train two times a year and Cadro said that those training sessions most likely would take place over a two-day period in the spring and again in the fall.
The Town Council is expected to discuss this issue at its meeting at 7 tonight and also to submit questions to the mayor about the issue for further investigation.