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County committee backs funding for shooting range

GENEVA – Kane County Board members continued Wednesday to support a sheriff’s project that will cost more than $800,000 more than initially expected.

The Finance/Budget Committee OK’d the budget adjustment needed to build the shooting range. Total construction costs are estimated at nearly $1.9 million. Sheriff Pat Perez has said the unforeseen costs can be paid for by the surplus generated by the housing of U.S. Marshall inmates.

The new range is planned for a location near the county jail. The existing range on Fabyan Parkway is no longer usable.

Some board members expressed concerns that the project is being considered individually and not as part of a larger discussion about the county’s capital needs and priorities.

Member Drew Frasz, R-Elburn, said including the shooting range in such a discussion could delay the project even more.

“It would take us months and months,” he said.

Member Doug Scheflow, R-Elgin, said he would have liked updates on the project sooner but ultimately supported it. He viewed it as the county replacing an existing facility rather than “skipping ahead” of other departments.

Frasz said depending on other agencies’ ranges is impractical for 300 employees who need regular training. Cristina Castro, D-Elgin, agreed and noted the ongoing overtime costs the county could accrue without having its own 24-hour range.

“It makes more sense to build the facility,” she said.

In addition to meeting the minimum requirements, Perez said, the range would let his officers go “over and above” in training. He said officers could train for various situations, such as low-light environments.

“This range is going to open up doors to do specialized training,” Lt. Ronald Grommes said in the Administration Committee meeting last week. “This is training we’ve never had. This is training we need.”

Noting the number of private organizations offering firearms training, board member Phil Lewis, R-St. Charles, advocated last week to make the shooting range publicly available to those seeking concealed-carry certification.

“We have a window of opportunity to create this,” he said. “I think the logic is there.”

Grommes said most of the courses offered through the private sector are taught by police officers. At least four sheriff’s employees are doing so, he said, noting it takes liability away from the county.

“We think that’s a better way to do it,” Grommes said.

Lewis said he wasn’t fighting the range but looking to what else the county can do with the nearly $2 million facility.

The Executive Committee is expected to consider the budget request next week. The Kane County Board should vote on it March 11.

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