Pittsfield Police likely to seek shooting range outside city

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PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Police Department likely needs a home range outside city lines, public officials agreed Wednesday.

"Moving forward, it's going to really come down to how much open land can we find," Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo said during a meeting of the City Council Committee on Public Health and Safety.

During the meeting, city councilors asked for an update from Police Chief Michael Wynn and Building Commissioner Gerald Garner regarding the city's now-closed shooting range on Utility Drive, and on efforts to find another space where police can train. Wynn ordered the former range closed to gunfire after residents along the southern stretch of Holmes Road complained, and after it became clear that the range — it has been in operation since at least 1999 — violated city zoning regulations.

David Durante, a Lathers Avenue resident who questioned the safety of the now-closed range, said he and his neighbors are satisfied with the closure. Now, he said, the city must contend with where to put the range that officers arguably need.

Durante asked that, moving forward, the city carefully define what it will allow with regard to indoor and outdoor shooting ranges.

"I think we tiptoed around the issue for 40 to 50 years in Pittsfield," he said. "I just don't see how we do it in an open outdoor shooting range with military-grade weapons."

To that point, Wynn said: "He's absolutely right."

Because city zoning regulations require that the department would need to find a 20-acre property for a new outdoor range, Wynn said it's unlikely his officers would be able to train in Pittsfield. Wynn said building an indoor range, the likes of which aren't addressed in city zoning codes, would double the cost of the $40 million station he is planning.

Wynn said he prefers to train officers outside, so they become accustomed to shooting in natural conditions. And he doesn't want his team to have to travel far outside city lines.

"We're looking," he told councilors.

Wynn said the department is between training cycles, and that he has gotten offers from other local departments to use their spaces if he can't line up anything before fall training times.

"We'll have to do something before the end of the calendar year," he said. "We'll have to have a solution on our minds, at least."

Mazzeo said she appreciates the effort.

"We feel the pressure that we're putting on you to find a new facility," she said. "I do understand that."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.

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