An ambitious, million-dollar project to build a new gun range for the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI was approved by the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Thursday.
Commissioners unanimously approved a contract worth approximately $1.2 million to Simpson Trucking and Grading for the range near the end of Allen Creek Road. It’s only the first phase of the work, and it’s completely funded by the FBI, according to Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Stephen Wilbanks.
Contractors will move approximately 95,000 yards of earth to lay out the foundation of the enormous rifle and pistol shooting range. The rifle range will be more than half a mile long — one of the requirements of the FBI, according to Wilbanks. The land is owned by the county.
The FBI has put up $1.7 million — originally thought to be enough to cover all of the earth moving, construction of the shooting range and some connected facilities.
“The site prep has turned into much more than anyone initially anticipated,” he said, noting it would cost more than $1.2 million.
The approximately $500,000 left will cover the construction of the range and shooting equipment but no facilities.
“The structures themselves … are sort of being put on hold right now,” Wilbanks said. “We’re still going to be able to utilize the range and shoot on state-of-the-art target systems and have full use of it in cooperation with the FBI, we just won’t have the classroom portion that we thought we would initially.”
The FBI intends to request more funding to finish the project next year, according to the Sheriff’s Office. The federal agency needs to recertify its marksmen each year and the closest facility with a long enough rifle range is in south Georgia, according to the county.
In the meantime, the Sheriff’s Office and Hall County Public Works have identified opportunities to save money by using in-house employees or other contractors that could add up to $516,358.
“We think we can save a considerable amount,” Public Works Director Ken Rearden told commissioners during their Monday work session. “There’s even some more. We want to sit down … and kind of pull our heads together. We definitely need something to move all that dirt, that’s for sure.”
Commissioner Scott Gibbs cautioned against using county employees for the heavy dig work involved in the range.
“I don’t want our people doing anything over 4 feet deep,” Gibbs told Rearden. “I saw the plans and there’s some 20-foot digs on this thing, and they’ll get killed.”
The new range sits near the Sheriff’s Office existing range on Allen Creek Road. The site is an old landfill, and sits near the county’s existing landfill.
“People won’t hear gunfire every single day,” Gibbs said.