Byron gun range idea draws fire

Although the long-range idea of firing up a gun target shooting site on Town of Byron property was announced only last month, some citizens already are up in arms about the proposal and expressed their views during the council meeting on Tuesday night, Dec. 10, in Town Hall.

Mayor Pam Hopkinson said that the tentative plan is for representatives of the National Rifle Association to come for a public meeting early in 2014. She said that not only could NRA possibly provide some funding to help develop a range, possibly an indoor facility, but that because its emphasis is on gun safety the council also is intent on that aspect. At issue is a shooting range that might also include an archery range on a 37-acre parcel, known locally as “the town swamp,” that lies generally on the northeast side of town off Cloud Peak Drive.

Some 13 minutes during the early part of the nearly three-hour meeting were used for public forum comments. Debbie and Jon Wassmer each spoke against the idea; Tom Langston spoke of “inherent risks and astronomical liability;” and Carl Watts stressed hunter safety courses and stated indirectly that some persons with guns will shoot in any direction whether for birds or other targets.

“I can guarantee you,” Watts stated, “that if someone with a high-powered rifle sees a deer and it’s between houses, he’ll shoot.”

Late in the meeting Kim Shull entered the council chamber and wanted to speak to the matter, but Hopkinson told him that he could express his views later, noting that there will be plenty of opportunity for citizens to speak.

Debbie Wassmer told the mayor and council that the planned shooting range is too close to children playing, plus homes, ranches and farms. As a former 911 dispatcher, she related, she had many instances of listening to grieving parents whose child was shot accidentally. She said that there already are incidents of gunfire at the site and that she is scared sometimes to go outside her home. As well, she said that utility workers often are in the proposed site to work on pipelines.

“I am very concerned,” she said.

Wassmer also noted that other sites farther from town might be more appropriate. “The site under consideration is too close to town,” she said. Her husband expressed similar concerns.

In another matter the council heard from J.R. Gonzales, the town’s representative to the Shoshone Municipal Pipeline. He advised that he needs a decision before SMP’s Jan. 13 meeting as to the town’s stand regarding what seems like a new pass-through charge that will be levied. The bottom line is a monthly SMP tap fee that could be either 50-cents per year per tap during a two-year period or 25-cents per year during a four-year period. Gonzales said that the SMP board does not anticipate increasing the $1.34 per 1,000-gallon wholesale rate, although any new rate would be effective as of July 1, 2014.

Ordinance work

The major portion of the Dec. 10 meeting, as during most meetings this year, again was devoted to extensive commentary focusing on revising several town ordinances. The mayor said after the meeting that, “The ordinances that are not Title 11 have their readings at each board meeting. These are posted with the agenda. However, I will be putting specific information in the water bills that come out in January so the public has a heads up. The Title 11 changes need to be presented at a public hearing and we are hoping to have that some time in January.”

Besides considerable and detailed discussion during previous scheduled meetings, the council and mayor also pondered the items during a recent two-hour study session. The town leaders have been working to refine Byron’s weed and abandoned vehicles ordinances, plus areas involving manufactured home courts, reduction of nonconforming lots, water and sewer permit fees and abandoned meters. Additionally, the topic of county consensus funding arose with some concerns expressed about equitable allocations, especially regarding high-budget municipal projects. Several of the items being reviewed were tabled for more discussion while others underwent first readings. In some cases the mayor will again pursue wording with the town’s attorney, Joey Darrah.

The council approved November bills. They included $3,047 for a radar unit to replace an existing one in the town’s police pickup truck; $4,185 for new handheld portable radios and $1,983 for computer-related expenses.

After the regular meeting the council conducted a 10-minute executive session closed to the public and press. Upon reconvening to open session, Councilman Alan Bair moved that Donna Booth, the town’s clerk/treasurer, be granted a $1 per hour raise as of Jan. 1 and it was approved 5-0.

by Bob Rodriguez