State lawmakers granted Weber County's $1.5 million gun range request

Wednesday , April 23, 2014 - 6:08 PM

OGDEN — Weber County’s $1.5 million request to the state Legislature to help purchase an indoor gun range appeared dead in the water in mid-February but got revived and funded during the session’s final two days of frenzied activity.

In what appeared to be a mid-session comedic mishap, Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, told the Standard-Examiner in February that he “screwed up” during an appropriations subcommittee session when he thought the item had been placed on their priority list, made the motion to approve, and then discovered the shooting range was not included.

The Swanson Family Foundation offered to sell the Swanson Tactical Training Center in Ogden’s Industrial Park to Weber County for about $3.8 million, a deal that some felt was just too good to pass up.

While Commissioner Matt Bell doesn’t know exactly how the legislative save occurred, he is thrilled that the county can move ahead with plans to purchase.

“The value on this range is $14 million,” Bell said. “As a former police officer, it’s an area that I believe we need to be trained the best we can to protect our citizens.”

The facility features two indoor shooting ranges and a mock urban environment where regional law enforcement agencies and military special operations units can hone their skills.

In late January, the County Commission hosted a “dine and shoot” event where state lawmakers and their families could experience what the decade-old Swanson center had to offer.

There are very few such structures in the U.S., Bell said, describing its indoor 300-yard rifle range as “really unique” and to his knowledge, the only one in Utah.

“We’re hoping to finalize the purchase in the next 90 days,” Bell said, noting that local law enforcement agencies already routinely use the facility.

“So it shouldn’t change a lot there. We’re hoping to have a public component,” Bell said, “but I don’t know how far down the line we are for that. We’d have to modify a 50-yard range.”

That public component could eventually help the range break even, but Bell regards it as similar to a government-owned park or recreation facility: “You’re there to provide service.”

The hunt for the remaining $2.3 million is now under way, and there might be fund balances the county can tap for that purpose, Bell added.

Reached this week, Jenkins credited the Legislature’s Executive Appropriations Committee for including the $1.5 million request in HB 2, a massive appropriations bill finalized by lawmakers on March 12.

Rep. Brad Dee, R-Washington Terrace, serves on the Executive Appropriations committee and is also House majority leader.

“Senator Jenkins asked me to make sure that Executive Appropriations knew that it was a recommendation from his subcommittee,” Dee said. “I made that known, and it was included in the budget.”

However, Dee is reluctant to take any credit.

“It’s not like I resurrected it,” Dee said. “I want to make sure that people in Weber County know that Sen. Jenkins carried the ball on that one.”

Contact reporter Cathy McKitrick at 801-625-4214 or Follow her on Twitter at @catmck.

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