POST UPDATED 3 p.m.
No doubt about it, Boise coppers need a shooting range to maintain a safe standard of proficiency with their weapons to protect themselves and the public. That’s a given. However, when the biggest county sheriff’s department, state coppers and others are able to use an existing facility in the desert, it calls into question the justification for a “state-of-the-art” range in the heart of the city.
Boise PD plans to spend $1.32 million over the next four years to build the proposed new facility which neighbors oppose.
Ada County Sheriff Gary Raney told the GUARDIAN his deputies, the Idaho State Police, and the Peace Officers Academy all do their shooting qualification and practice at a range operated by the Idaho Department of Corrections on Pleasant Valley Rd. The cost for Ada County: $1500 per year.
Boise’s own planning and zoning commission denied an application Monday for construction of improvements at the existing city range which is surrounded by high-end homes. The action was at a public hearing which was apparently just another chapter in the saga of deceit. Residents opposed the improvements for many reasons. The P&Z commishes agreed.
According to the Idaho Statesman story of the P&Z meeting, “The police department’s legal counsel has concluded the city is exempt from standard permitting requirements, Capt. Randy Roper said. Boise engaged in the process only as a gesture to people who live near the range, Roper said.” He said the city would appeal the commission’s decision.
Capt. Roper’s description of a “gesture” to folks living near the range conjure’s up at least one gesture using a finger.
The current facility which the city wants to expand and improve has a sordid history of a devastating fire, deceitful investigations, questionable real estate/financial transactions, and an attempt to “de-annex” city-owned land from the city. The ground is simply full of bad karma.
Built in 1960 on city land in what was once the barren foothills, the range was owned for years by the Boise Police Association. Part of the facility included the “clubhouse.” It was a loose arrangement with the city regarding just exactly what was owned by the coppers and what was owned by the city. Eventually the city leased the shooting range. During that 1996 period an off duty copper with tracer rounds in his National Guard M-16 was suspected of starting a massive fire which ripped through the hills. He was cleared–at least never charged–despite overwhelming public opinion that he did indeed start the fire. It was a low point for public trust in the Boise PD.
In 2008 when current administrators of both the police and the city were unable to come to terms with the Ada County Sheriff over a joint training facility, the city decided to purchase the range and invest in improvements.
The law precludes purchases from city employees. So, in a convoluted three way real estate scheme Boise City traded land it owned at 25th and Fairview in exchange for an overvalued piece of rocky terrain off Gowen Road and the shooting range which was somehow folded into a deal with doctors who were to build a private hospital on Fairview.
The GUARDIAN cried “foul,” questioned a 4-year-old “declaration of surplus property” (on the Fairview parcel), the value of the Gowen Rd. portion of the trade and a “receipt of gift”–all aimed at getting the foothills shooting range without public comment.
As it turned out, St. Lukes hospital bought out the doctors to prevent competition from a private facility. The Fairview land is still vacant and the city has an outdated shooting range in need of improvements and a lot off Gowen that is useless.
The legal staff realized the shooting range was a “non-conforming use,” and it stood little chance of approval, so it was suggested the city actually de-annex their own ground, returning it to county jurisdiction to get around their own rules! That didn’t happen.
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