The Police Department is spending significant money to improve its outdoor shooting range along Old River Road SW.
What remains to be seen, though, is if the improvements will reduce the noise at the range that neighbors next to it have complained about for years.
On Tuesday, the City Council is slated to approve a contract with Bentley Architects + Engineers Inc., Longwood, Fla., for up to $249,211 to provide design services for the shooting range project.
In addition, the council is slated to approve long-term agreements with five Johnson County law enforcement agencies, each of which has agreed to contribute to the cost of the range improvements in trade for the ability to use it.
Both the city of Iowa City and Johnson County will contribute $100,000 each to the project, the city of Coralville and the University of Iowa Department of Public Safety, $50,000 each, and the city of North Liberty, $25,000. Earlier, the Federal Bureau of Investigation agreed to contribute $125,000 to the project.
Cedar Rapids police Capt. Bernie Walther on Monday said the commitment from the Johnson County agencies is a reflection of their inability to find a spot in Johnson County for their own outdoor shooting range.
Walther said improvements at the shooting range will take place in phases over a few years. One possible improvement may feature walls between the range’s shooting lanes so different departments can use the range at the same time. Such a change could reduce the days or hours that the range operates, Walther said.
The consultant, he added, will talk to neighbors as part of the range project.
In tandem with the City Council action, the city is asking the Iowa Legislature to modify a state law related to law enforcement shooting ranges. This request is in response to an opinion from the Iowa Citizens’ Aide/Ombudsman’s office, which has told the city that the Cedar Rapids shooting range is too close to three properties and so in violation of the law that the city wants to change.
Walther said on Monday that the Police Department intends to work with neighbors even if it is successful in getting the state law changed. He said the department is “beholden” to the neighbors because they are taxpayers, but he added, he also is responsible to the rest of the city’s taxpayers who expect a trained and certified police force.
A neighbor next to the shooting range, Pat Freilinger, 2949 Old River Rd. SW, went to Des Moines in recent weeks and testified in front of a legislative committee about the shooting range noise, Walther said.
Freilinger has said he understands that police officers need to practice, but he has said he didn’t understand why he had to listen to the noise so officers from agencies outside the city could practice.
“That’s a free-for-all that’s not fair inside the city limits,” Freilinger has said.
Walther said the shooting range, which is generally quiet in winter, is available for law enforcement practice and training seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.