Error delays safety study of Cape Elizabeth gun club

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The firing range committee Wednesday planned to receive results of a safety evaluation of the Spurwink Rod and Gun Club, only to find out the study hasn’t been done.

Town Councilor Caitlin Jordan, the new chairwoman of the committee, said poor communication and failure to follow protocol at the committee’s last meeting on Oct. 15 resulted in the evaluation not being completed. The panel had discussed the need for an evaluation and decided to have it performed, but because it wasn’t on the agenda, she said the town never followed through.

“We thought we took care of that last meeting,” Jordan said. “(Councilor and former committee Chairman Jamie Wagner) thought the town was going forward on it, and the town thought we hadn’t approved it.”

The committee has now officially approved having the safety evaluation done and approved the request for qualifications from the town. The request seeks bids from providers who wish to complete the evaluation of the gun club, much like a construction bid.

“We’re looking for someone with a firing-range safety evaluation background,” Jordan said.

The request asks bidders to submit their relevant experience, a performance history, their fees, a proposed schedule or time-line of the evaluation, and recommendations from previous clients. The town will also base its selection on the “adequacy” of evaluators and equipment, and on the completeness of proposals.

The request says the evaluation will look at shot containment and gun safety practices. The evaluator will have to submit a report to the town with any issues that are found, and an outline of steps the club should take to correct the issues.

The evaluation will not look at noise, which Jordan said is still one of the biggest problems facing the club. She said the committee is looking to have a sound engineer come to its next meeting. 

The gun club in October had a sound engineer complete a noise study that measured the decibel levels of gunshots from eight locations around the club grounds. Former gun club President Mark Mayone said the highest reading was 79 decibels – the equivalent of a vacuum cleaner at three feet or a train at 100 feet – at 500 feet away from the club. 

The committee in October decided the study results met the requirements of a new ordinance that requires all gun clubs to register with the town.

The committee on Wednesday also talked about change of use for the club.

When the club submits its application to the town, it has to list everything it uses at the facility, such as guns and bullets. After the registration process is complete and if the club decides to allow different types of weapons, it would have to notify the town.

For example, the club is planning to offer archery. Jordan said that would be a change of use if the club doesn’t start until after its registration is complete. If the club starts before it submits its application, archery can be listed as one of its existing uses.

Some members of the public on Wednesday argued that a junior shooting competition the club is promoting is a change of use. Jordan disagreed, because the club has held such competitions in past years. 

Jordan said noise will be discussed at the committee’s next meeting, which has been scheduled for Jan. 22, 2015, at 6 p.m. She said the committee will address concerns from neighbors about declining property values of homes near the club.

Jordan also said people have concerns about how many gun club members are residents of Cape Elizabeth and how many are from surrounding towns. 

“They think it’s (not fair) that outside groups use (the facility) and Cape residents are suffering,” she said.

Gun club officials didn’t have membership information to share on Wednesday.

Jordan said the committee also hopes to hear back from the town about the request for safety evaluators, and if any bids have been submitted.

“We’re hoping the request for bids will get out quickly and at least have some response back by the next time we meet,” she said.

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

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.