Wright County aiming to partner with FBI for shooting range

There are some who would say having the FBI hanging out in your backyard is a very positive chip to have in your pocket in the event of an emergency. At its June 25 meeting, the Wright County Board of Commissioners approved moving forward with the FBI to construct a relatively elaborate shooting range – with the FBI picking up the majority of the tab.

Commissioner Mike Potter explained the proposal, which came out of the July 12 building committee meeting. Initially, the sheriff’s department had placed the construction of the shooting range as a future capital improvement project. The complex would be located at the former Rasset gravel pit site by the Law Enforcement Center – a piece of property the county purchased more than a decade ago to use as a gravel resource. The site is currently bare and an ideal site for the shooting range and associated buildings.

The FBI reached out to the sheriff’s department with ideal timing to help pay for the project.
“They (the sheriff’s department) have been contacted by the FBI about a potential partnership out there,” Potter said. “It appears that the FBI is losing their lease at their current shooting range. The timing couldn’t work out better for Wright County, because they’re looking to put in a significant amount of money on this.”

The FBI is looking for a 20-year agreement that would be much larger in scope than merely a firing range. The plan would include an expanded firing range, a tower, a use-of-force training room, a classroom, ammunition storage room and a gun cleaning room. The FBI is expected to cover the costs for the construction of the range, tower, classroom and the gun-cleaning and ammunition rooms, greatly minimizing the county’s cost.

Potter said that the county’s Emergency Operations Center could also move out of the county courthouse into a location at the Law Enforcement Center as well, giving the county the opportunity to make that move as part of the larger project given their reduced funding costs.

The board authorized the county to move forward with the project, pending a feasibility study to be conducted by the FBI, which Potter stated was little more than a formality. When the FBI returns with cost estimates and the level of contribution it is willing to make, the matter will return to the full board.

“I think it’s a good fit for a partnership because we’d have some benefit from some FBI training out there,” Potter said. “There would be separate areas for the FBI office and our office, but most of the stuff would be combined together. It’s a great location out there for that. It’s close enough to the metro for the FBI, so they’re interested in it. It’s a win-win for everybody involved in this.”

In other items on the July 25 agenda, the board:

• In a pair of unrelated ditch items, the board took a pair of actions. First, the board approved the findings and ordered the re-establishment of the correct drainage system record for County Ditch 10. The records for Ditch 10 were lost at some point and were decades old at the time – the county ditch system was created more than 100 years ago. Secondly, the board adopted the findings of fact and ordered a redetermination of benefitted landowners on County Ditch 18. The county board is the ditch authority, but the cost of any repairs or need for work to be done on county ditches is charged back to the benefitted landowners.

• Authorized signatures on the 2018-19 Radiological Emergency Preparedness grant through the sheriff’s department in the amount of $437,000.

• Referred discussion of election equipment as an agenda item to the Aug. 8 committee of the whole meeting.

• Was shorthanded with just three commissioners at the meeting. Commissioners Darek Vetsch and Christine Husom were taking part in a day-long Emergency Operations Center drill at the Monticello nuclear power plant. As a result, all votes needed to be unanimous to pass at the board meeting.

• Referred discussion of repairs to the Marysville Township Hall to the building committee. The old township hall is a historical site that was taken over by the county several years ago and has been county property ever since.

• Approved quotes for the construction of a new retaining wall at the Health & Human Services Center. The wall, which is estimated to be 30-40 years, has shown signs of failing, which has become more pronounced in recent months and it was determined the work needs to be done now before the entire wall fails and collapses.

• Referred the personnel committee discussion of the potential hiring of a business analyst position.

Freelancer John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.