The Forsyth County Board of commissioners have approved a measure to get the ball rolling on a planned state-of-the-art firearms training facility that is in development by the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
At a work session held Tuesday, commissioners voted unanimously to approve the first round of environmental testing at a 16.81-acre plot of land off Old Federal Road in northwest Forsyth that has been donated to the county by trash disposal company Advanced Disposal.
Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman spoke before the board at the meeting, expressing his department’s need for the facility and how well the site would fit their parameters.
“It is an ideal location for us,” Freeman said to Commissioners, explaining that it would sit adjacent to the old county Hightower Landfill off Old Federal Road.
Freeman said that they are currently working with the Environmental Protection Division and Advanced Disposal to cut through some of the red tape and minimize the reclamation needed for them to use the site.
“Let’s just be blunt, it doesn’t make sense to require them to do this reclamation process in areas that we are going to go tear back up to build a firearms range,” Freeman said. “So we are reaching out to see if there is some opportunity there with EPD and meeting all their regulations and requirements.”
Freeman said that in addition to donating the acreage, Advanced Disposal has agreed to do the grading for the site, potentially saving thousands of dollars for the sheriff’s office.
“I’m grateful of that,“ he said.
Cpt. Chuck Smith of the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, who heads the project, said that the money they save by using donated land and site grading will give them more funds to put back towards the proposed range.
"That's money that doesn’t just go into the ground, that’s money for technology and actual equipment," Smith said.
According to Smith, the proposed facility has been designed with the intention of becoming one of the best ranges in the state. With a proposed total of 20 35-foot regular lanes, eight 100-yard rifle ranges, a 180-degree reactionary bay and a number of different specialized training areas, Smith said that the proposed range will have something for everyone.
"You name it, we are going to have it," Smith said.
Smith said that 20 regular lanes are planned to be 10 yards longer than a normal range for advanced shooting classes, and the rifle range will likely feature a targeting system that will allow shooters to see in real time what they are hitting on the target.
In addition to being a state of the art facility, he said that the range could easily save more than $100,000 a year that the sheriff’s office spends on sending its deputies to qualify at a range in Pickens County.
"That way we minimize our overtime, there’s no driving time and it’s in the county," Smith said.
In addition, Smith said they will then be able to open the space up for other law enforcement agencies for their use and for public firearms classes that they plan to hold monthly.
At this point in the process, Smith said that nothing can happen until environmental testing is done on the land.
Smith said that previously the sheriff's office had a range that operated out of a rock quarry in the county, but the program was disbanded after they received noise complaints from a nearby subdivision.
He called the plot on Old Federal Road "the one spot in the county" where they could possibly put their facility.
"There's no other spot in the area that's not surrounded by subdivisions," Smith said.