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New England News

Berkshire Communities Decide On Shooting Ranges

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The shooting range in Pittsfield is operated by its Police Department.

Shooting ranges have become the subject of public debate in the Berkshires in recent weeks.

In an almost complete reversal of North Adams’ recent debate over the value of maintaining a shooting range in its environs, Pittsfield residents took their issues with a similar facility run by the police department to Tuesday’s city council meeting. The range in question opened in 1999 and is next to two residential areas, the 4H Fairgrounds, and the city’s wastewater plant facility just off of Holmes Road.

“I don’t know if anyone here has ever been in a position where you have to go someplace every day that you don’t want to go, and on your ride there you can feel the tenseness in your chest, you can feel a knot in your stomach," said Dave Durante at the meeting. "You brace for the pending confrontation. And that has been life on Lathers Ave for the last couple of years.”

Durante, a major part of the movement by residents to close the range, is a neighbor to the Utility Drive range on nearby Lathers Ave. So is Ed Barrett, who came with his wife Amy and their son Eddy to share their experience.

“When the range is in use, we are not able to sit on our deck and have a conversation," said Barrett to the council. "Our son cannot play outside without feeling startled or scared by gunshots. Our son is homeschooled, so my family is generally home during the day. There are times when they need to wear earplugs inside the house in order to be able to work at all.”

In North Adams, there was frustration after Mayor Tom Bernard’s abrupt decision to close his city’s range last month.

To the south, residents at Tuesday night’s meeting voiced frustration at how Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and Police Chief Michael Wynn handled their complaints about the persistent gunfire at the range.

“The range has been closed now for about a week, and what a wonderful difference," said Durante. He said it wasn’t easy to get to that point.

“There’s a lot that I could say about the dismissive attitude that I encountered from the mayor’s office or the unsympathetic sometimes hostile attitudes of the Pittsfield police, trying to deal with them,” he told the council.

Barrett, who said his Lathers Ave home is about 900 feet from the range, said calls to the police department to clarify who was using the range and when were fruitless.

“We were called a few times but far more training sessions occurred without any communication,” he told the council.

Barrett added that while the range was theoretically closed, he had heard someone shooting there the day before, and questioned if some of the use was indeed official. Councilors Melissa Mazzeo and Christopher Connell, who said they had submitted the zoning related petition that closed the range temporarily, had asked Chief Wynn to attend the meeting. Wynn did not. In his stead, two representatives from the department fielded questions about the range.

“We’re still going to train at the location with our K9s and with some other things that we do, but there will be no live fire training there going forward," said Police Captain Mark Trapani. He acknowledged the public complaints, and said that they should contact the department with any concerns about use of the range. As far as Barrett’s claims of fire on the range Monday, Trapani said he had received no complaints about it at the department.

The Pittsfield Police Department told WAMC that it "primarily [trains] with .40 caliber handguns, 12 gauge shotguns, and 5.56 mm/.223 caliber rifles" at the range, and offered the following details about the facility:

"It’s a 100 yard range, divided into 2 sides by a berm.  We can get 10 lanes on each side.  There are 2 conex box’s for storage and a small building that we utilize for shelter and/or classes.  It’s basically an oversized shed, maybe 15’x30’.  There is also a covered, 2-position wooden shooting stand.  Additionally, a K9 agility course is positioned next to the building."

Trapani said the department is looking for an alternate location for its fall live fire training

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