BRASELTON — The FBI will pay for the construction of a sound barrier at Braselton’s Todd Helcher Memorial Firing Range.
The news came after several Hoschton residents complained about noise issues associated with the range and a town-sponsored acoustics study was completed.
"The FBI has agreed to fund the improvements to the range necessary to institute the sound barriers and conversion of the range to indoor," said Jennifer Dees, Braselton’s town manager.
Construction could begin in as little as 30 days, but will depend on when the engineering work finishes. Dees said engineers from both Braselton and the FBI will collaborate on the project.
The cost for the improvements is not yet known, but the funds, which are available and included in the current year’s budget, must be spent by Sept. 1, according to Dees.
The controversy over the range started when several Hoschton residents living in the Deer Creek Farms subdivision and off Beaver Dam Drive said the noise was affecting their quality of life.
Dayne Shannon, who lives off Beaver Dam Drive, was one resident who addressed the Hoschton City Council at its February meeting, asking for help in resolving the issue. Shannon told council members that when the range was in use, "it sounds like fireworks going off."
Shannon and others contended that they had been in contact with Braselton officials about the problem since last January.
In response to these complaints, Braselton hired Ballentine Walker Smith Inc. to perform an acoustics test. The company conducted noise monitoring tests at two residences in Deer Creek Farms at three different times between Dec. 19 and Feb. 20.
Scott Walker Smith, president of Ballentine Walker Smith, wrote in a letter to Braselton that "the data clearly indicates that existing neighborhood noise unrelated to firing range operations (aircraft, vehicles, etc.) exhibit peak noise levels of the same or greater magnitude when compared to firing range derived noise."
Despite these findings, Smith recommended that the firing range be converted to an indoor range.
"Based upon adverse community reaction cited to date, complaints are only expected to intensify over time as the community expands with new residential developments," he wrote.
Braselton’s firing range was built in July 2007 for $297,000 using federal funds acquired by Braselton. In addition, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency contributed $50,000 for turning targets and the FBI built the nearby shoot house for $350,000, which it later donated to the town.
At least 39 law enforcement departments in Georgia use the range, including the FBI, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Army, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Jefferson, Oakwood and Gainesville police departments.