Basalt ponders opening wallet to help fund shooting range solutions | AspenTimes.com

Basalt ponders opening wallet to help fund shooting range solutions

The Basalt Town Council will consider making some hefty financial contributions to efforts to relocate the Basalt State Wildlife Area shooting range or make it better suited to stay put.

A budget proposal by the staff suggests spending as much as $555,000 over the next several years for expenses related to the shooting range, according to Basalt Town Manager Ryan Mahoney. The range is owned and operated by Colorado Parks and Wildlife, a state agency, but Basalt came under pressure from some residents after the Lake Christine Fire to help make sure the facility is safe.

The shooting range was closed after the Lake Christine Fire broke out there the evening of July 3 and ultimately charred about 12,600 acres, destroyed three homes and cost an estimated $17.1 million to extinguish.

The facility was reopened on a temporary basis with limited hours Sept. 15. It is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as well as 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Basalt Town Council passed a resolution in August urging CPW to explore relocating the range or, if that fails, to mitigate fire risk, sound and environmental issues. If the budget items are approved, Basalt will take an active role in trying to achieve those goals.

Mahoney said Basalt's 2019 budget proposes spending $5,000 to pay trained personnel to work as shooting range officers while the facility is open. The Roaring Fork Valley Sportsmen's Association has been paying to staff safety officers since the range reopened this fall.

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A second range-related expenditure for 2019 proposes the town spend $50,000 to plan and engineer mitigation measures. If approved, the funds would come from the town's Parks, Open Space and Trails budget rather than the general fund, Mahoney said.

The staff also proposed spending $500,000 from the town's capital improvement budget starting in 2021 to either help relocate the shooting range or, if that fails, undertake steps such as improving fire safety, reducing noise and examining environmental hazards, according to Mahoney.

The expenditure would be a matching grant that CPW would have to equal before Basalt would approve allocation of the funds, Mahoney said.

The draft budget goes to council for review Nov. 13.

Meanwhile, CPW is taking the first step Monday in putting together a steering committee to look at management issues for the shooting range.

"CPW invited 36 individuals to a private meeting (today) in Basalt. The invitees consist of individuals with opinions and concerns on all sides of this issue," Mike Porras, CPW public information officer for the Northwest Region, said Friday via email.

"Monday's meeting is only the initial step," he continued. "During this meeting, we will listen to ideas and have a conversation about who will eventually serve on the committee and how it will function."

J.T. Romatzke, Northwest Regional manager for CPW, said the work of the steering committee will dictate what funds are sought for the shooting range for fiscal year 2019 and future years. The state government's fiscal year begins in July.

CPW made a "conservative" estimate that it spent $150,000 on battling the fire at the state wildlife area, undertaking steps to ease runoff by building check dams and other diversions, reseeding and improving fire safety around the shooting range. That's likely a conservative estimate, Porras said.

scondon@aspentimes.com

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