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, including Riverside, 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.

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 and rents space from other departments. Costs are based on ammunition, equipment and other factors. Overtime also is included. The amount is based on whether officers can use the range during their shift time or if they have to use it when they’re off duty.

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 at a cost of $286 per officer. The maximum would be 1,244 police officers at a cost of $80 per officer. 

Operational costs will be determined by the time an intergovernmental agreement 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 [intergovernmental agreement] until we truly have commitments from the communities that are interested. The numbers have to work,” Sullivan said.

Intergovernmental agreements would have to be approved by each of the participating communities as well as the Triton board. It could take a year for the agreements to be signed and the range to be finished.

Communities that don’t initially sign on to the intergovernmental agreement can do so later on, which would also reduce participating communities’ contributions, 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. 

Knowing that Triton had a criminal justice curriculum, Adduci suggested that a regional consortium of communities within the Triton area help with the effort. 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.

Riverside does not have a range and is interested in Triton’s proposal. Brookfield, which had initially expressed interest in the joint proposal, recently opted to renovate its shooting range, which is located in the basement of the municipal building.

On Nov. 10, the Brookfield Village Board voted to approve spending $55,750 from a special drug-seizure fund to install a state-of-the-art target system in its shooting range space.