Cape Elizabeth finds Georgia contractor to evaluate safety at gun club

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The town has found someone to complete a safety evaluation of the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club, although it may take some time before a report is ready.

Sgt. Paul Fenton on Wednesday told the firing range committee the town has found a Georgia contractor willing to do the evaluation. The town is working on an agreement for financing travel expenses to get the man to Maine.

The contractor, whose name was not released, will fly up for an initial visit and then will return at a later date to complete the safety evaluation. The firing range committee is planning to meet after the man submits a report of his findings.

After that meeting, the next firing range committee meeting will be in April when the gun club’s application is due. The application is part of a registration process all gun clubs must go through under a new town ordinance.

At Wednesday’s meeting, former gun club President Mark Mayone discussed recently completed construction at the Sawyer Road range, where the club put up three concrete walls and rubber backstops. He told the committee this is about half of the construction that needs to be done to meet standards for shot containment and noise abatement.

Mayone said construction at the range, which includes putting up two more walls and leveling out the ground, will be done by 2016. He said baffles and a new shooting shed should be in place by 2017.

He said the schedule is lengthy due to financial restrictions. 

Sound engineer Steve Ambrose, who completed a noise study of the range in October, was present at Wednesday’s meeting to discuss ways to reduce the noise heard by neighbors in Cross Hill. He said it would be better to get a new shooting shed up sooner, rather than later.

“My feeling is that larger weapons need to be shot from under a roof,” Ambrose said. “You just have to contain (the noise) and get (shooters) deep into the shed.”

Ambrose said having a roof that extends past the front of the shooting shed would contain some of the sound and bounce it back at the ground, which would reduce the noise heard by the neighbors.

Ambrose said the club needs to have scheduled times and days when members would be shooting larger caliber guns, so that neighbors could be aware of when to expect louder gun shots. He said noise is less welcome when it’s unexpected and that people are less likely to feel as annoyed if they know when the noise will end.

Ambrose said the town and the firing range committee shouldn’t be trying to measure noise by decibels, which is what they asked Ambrose to do, but rather to measure by “human response.” He said Cross Hill is a very quiet neighborhood, so it’s difficult to set a decibel level for all gun clubs, because circumstances may be different in other parts of town.

Spurwink Rod and Gun Club is the only gun club in town, but the ordinance covers gun clubs that may be formed in the future as well.

Ambrose said the committee should forget about numbers, and just set a “community tolerance level.”

“When people have a problem with noise, it’s an emotional response,” Ambrose said. “But it’s natural. It’s a human response.”

That point was driven home when Mayone and Cross Hill resident Edward Nadeau raised their voices at each other over the noise issue. Mayone asked Nadeau what he was thinking when he moved in next to a gun club. Nadeau and other neighbors said the gun club used to be quieter than it is now.

“The noise level is substantially louder than it’s been before,” Nadeau, who’s lived in Cross Hill for 13 years, said. “I can’t overemphasize that the range is not what it used to be.”

Nadeau said he noticed an increase in noise after the recent construction was completed. He said he wondered if the new walls are channeling noise in a different way.

Town Councilor and firing range committee Chairwoman Caitlin Jordan kept the peace and stayed positive about the gun club’s progress.

While some in town say that no progress in being made, she noted the town will soon have a safety report and the club will soon turn in its application.

“We are moving forward,” Jordan said. “Progress is being made.”

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.