Madison County’s shooting range will soon be located next to the county sheriff’s office off Hwy. 98.
County commissioners voted 5-0 March 29 to allow Sheriff Kip Thomas to relocate the range from its current locale near the Madison-Oglethorpe Animal Shelter.
Thomas has said the move was necessary because the shelter was in harm’s way.
“Right now, we’re shooting at the shelter,” said Thomas at a recent hearing on the matter. “At 50 yards we’re just about even with the animal shelter when we’re shooting.”
At that March hearing, Thomas said the new range, which will be on the left side of the jail, if you’re looking at the front entrance of the facility, will be an outdoor facility, with a 22-foot berm. Leyland Cypress trees will also buffer the range. The sheriff said he had a company design the range to be as safe as possible, with a downward slant for gunfire into the bank. He said the berm will be seven feet higher than required and that the sound of gunfire should mostly travel up, not out.
Thomas also noted that the new range will be more convenient for the sheriff’s department, not just because of its locale, but because of the access to bathrooms and electricity, which aren’t available at the current range.
Several neighboring residents attended that hearing and voiced concerns about stray bullets and noise of gunfire.
There was little discussion Monday prior to the vote for approval. While commissioner Bruce Scogin said he would support the move, he expressed some reservations.
“I get the feeling this is more about convenience than necessity,” he said. “I think once the shooting starts, we’re going to get a lot of complaints about it.”
Thomas said the new outdoor range will be used by the sheriff’s department, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the probation office. The range will most likely be used on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when current training is usually planned. Thomas said he wouldn’t have a problem giving neighbors advanced notice of training exercises. There will be rare occasions of night shooting, because night exercises are a part of required deputies’ training.
The new range, which will cost roughly $10,000 and be covered with funds seized by the sheriff’s department, is designed for up to seven people to shoot at one time, though only six are expected to shoot at once on the range. Thomas said he anticipates 60 to 65 people will use the range.