Triton College soon will start assessing the cost effectiveness of constructing a state-of-the-art police shooting range on its River Grove campus.
The college is awaiting results of a survey sent out to all 24 communities in the community college district to see what towns are interested in moving forward and helping pay costs associated with constructing and operating the facility.
So far, 10 towns have expressed serious interest. While the idea first surfaced among the elected leaders of Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park, it’s uncertain at this point if those towns have officially signed on. Officials in those communities have said their towns would like to be involved, noting that it would provide officers with a facility that would be kept up to date and would open space in local municipal facilities.
A community commitment to the project would mean that it would be willing to continue discussions and sign on to an intergovernmental agreement to help pay off a $2 million, 20-year bond issue to build the facility as well as kick in a pro-rated share of the operating costs. Each community’s contribution will be based on the number of officers in each town. Costs like ammunition and overtime, if needed, would be borne by the individual communities.
To make the construction of the shooting range cost effective, there would need to be 350 officers at a minimum, the cost would be $286 per officer. The maximum would be 1,244 police officers — all of the police officers who serve within the Triton College district — at $80. Operational costs, such as paying for lead scrubbers, servicing the range and other items, will be determined at the time an IGA is created, said Sean Sullivan, Triton’s vice president for finance. Responsibility for the range would rest with the college.
“We cannot talk about an IGA until we truly have commitments from the communities that are interested. The numbers have to work,” Sullivan said.
IGAs would have to be approved by each of the participating communities as well as the Triton board. It could take a year for the agreement to be signed and the range to be finished.
Communities that don’t initially sign on to the IGA can do so later on, which would also reduce participating communities’ contribution, Sullivan said.
Officials at Triton have noted that communities that sign on to the shooting range will be first in line for a training facility if it is constructed.
The idea for a regional shooting range grew out of conversations between River Forest Village President Catherine Adduci, Oak Park Village President Anan Abu-Taleb and Forest Park Mayor Tony Calderone. Abu-Taleb had asked Adduci about using the latter community’s range. Calderone had been thinking about the idea as well as his community did not have a facility.
Knowing that Triton had a criminal justice curriculum, Adduci suggested that a regional consortium of communities within the Triton area help with the effort. Triton Chairman Mark Stephens and the college’s president Patricia Granados were intrigued by the idea. College officials this summer came back with the concept of constructing a full-fledged $20 million training facility with computer, labs and loads of opportunities for real-life simulations. Because the costs were prohibitive, a shooting range came forward as the best option to take on in the beginning.
Adduci said the idea for the shooting range is similar to the kind of regional collaboration that helped create the West Suburban Consolidated Dispatch Center. The center was formed in 2002 when Oak Park and River Forest merged its 9-1-1 dispatch centers. Elmwood Park joined on in 2004, and this month WSCDC began answering calls for service for the Park Ridge police department.
River Forest Police Chief Greg Weiss said it was an interesting idea. River Forest has its own shooting range, and $75,000 is budgeted for upgrades to the range and related costs. Approximately 28 sworn officers staff the department.
Adduci said River Forest will continue to be interested in it, “so long as Triton can do it in a cost-effective, break-even way, and there is a vision for more potential uses of the facility and our taxpayers receive a longer-term benefit. The range is not a luxury but a necessity, and the new facility at Triton could free up space at village hall for other uses.”
Oak Park’s range is in a state of disrepair: the lighting needs work, the motors that move the targets are broken down and there are no replacement parts. There are concerns about ventilation and lead content. And then there’s the noise. When officers use the range, which is located in the basement, the shots can be heard in the council chambers upstairs. Remodeling the 30-year-old range was projected to cost more than $300,000. There is a placeholder for funds in the village’s budget, Oak Park Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said.
There is great interest in something like this for the force, which has around 100 sworn officers, said Oak Park Police Chief Rick Tanksley. Officers still would qualify while on duty; overtime would not be a concern in the village’s participation, he added.
“It’s an attractive idea. We can gain some valuable space for some other reason,” Tanksley said.
Forest Park and Riverside do not have ranges and are interested in Triton’s proposal. Officials in both communities said they wanted to see more numbers. Forest Park uses a number of different shooting ranges, including those in River Forest, Oak Park and Broadview. The village police staff consists of 38 sworn officers.
“It’s more than an intriguing good use of combined resources,” Calderone said. “The more towns that are in this the better it will be for everybody.”
Riverside Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said the community has to see if the range fits into the budget and the flexibility of scheduling. His department has 19 sworn officers. It rents space from other departments; costs are based on ammunition, equipment and other factors. Overtime also is included; the amount is based on if officers can use the range during their shift time or if they have to use it when they’re off-duty.