Safety expert: Cape Elizabeth gun club plan falls short

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CAPE ELIZABETH — The safety evaluator whose report led to a ban on the use of live ammunition at the Spurwink Rod & Gun club says it will take many months and up to $1 million worth of work for the range to meet safety standards.

Rick LaRosa, an independent safety evaluator from Georgia who was hired by the town, on Monday told the Town Council the club won’t be safe until it puts in an overhead barrier for shot containment.

The Sawyer Road club is working on renovations, but its leaders have said the work won’t be done until 2017.

LaRosa told councilors the club’s design plans still won’t create a range that’s safe enough.

“No matter how quickly they could have implemented the plan, it wouldn’t have been successful,” he said.”It did not fully address the need for containment.”

The club was informed by Police Chief Neil Williams on July 24 that all shooting would be suspended because of safety concerns in LaRosa’s report, which was done as part of a new licensing process. Although the club has existed for more than 60 years, it must register and obtain a license under the ordinance enacted in early 2014.

The report listed several reasons why the club shouldn’t be allowed to use live ammunition, including that bullets could easily leave the range and reach the nearby Cross Hill neighborhood. Although the club is working to build berms and backstops, LaRosa on Monday said the plans don’t meet National Rifle Association standards.

“The design that they were proposing was not as is recommended by the NRA,” he said. “And it’s not how we practice range design right now.”

LaRosa said the club must make sure bullets can’t leave the range at an upward trajectory.

“A better range design would have overhead containment,” he said.

LaRosa said the club must install a “no blue sky” containment system and that live fire shouldn’t be resumed until that’s accomplished. He said the club needs a new range design plan, which could be developed in a couple of weeks at a cost of $15,000-$20,000.

“They have a chance to achieve containment not only within their property, but within the range depth,” LaRosa said.

He said the club could start by putting in containment systems for its 25-meter range before working up to the longer distances. He said this would take about a month and cost “a couple hundred thousand dollars.”

LaRosa said completing the entire range would take six months and cost between $750,000 and $1 million. The range’s current redesign project is expected to cost only $90,000 and the club has raised $17,000.

Gun club President Tammy Walter said despite the major difference between LaRosa’s cost estimate and what the club had been expecting, she’s not deterred. 

“I see everything as a possibility,” Walter said.

Walter and former club President Mark Mayone said they think the club can raise the money needed to put in a no-blue-sky system.

“I think we’ll be up and running sooner rather than later,” Mayone said. “I think a tight time-line of six months could be achieved.”

Mayone said the club will refine its plans to meet industry standards, with the hope of reopening next February.

The council will hold a public hearing Sept. 14 to discuss the club’s license application. It’s unclear whether they will vote on the application while live fire is suspended.

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

Sidebar Elements

The Spurwink Rod & Gun Club in Cape Elizabeth was ordered July 24 to cease all live fire after a town-hired safety evaluator found the range unsafe.

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.