Chesterton Tribune

Neighbors win closure of Burns Harbor police gun range

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Area police departments that now use the Burns Harbor firing range for training will have to look elsewhere.

Neighboring residents implored the Town Council on Wednesday to shut it down after describing hours of continuous gunfire, loud noise, window-rattling booms and fears that a child playing in their own yard could be injured.

The firing range is three earthen embankments west of the town Street Department complex off Navajo Trail.

Chuck Tuter of Indian Springs subdivision north of the range said from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each of three weekdays last week there was incessant gunfire, hundreds of rounds, some large caliber. “If (the range) was sitting in any of your neighborhoods and you had that six hours a day, day in and day out, you’d think you were at war,” he told council members.

Tony Biancardi of the same subdivision said most town residents feel they’re not being respected by other Police Departments that use the range. Burns Harbor town marshal Craig Barnes estimated that number is about six or seven departments including SWAT teams and some federal agencies like the Coast Guard.

Biancardi said when weapons are being fired it’s not safe to use the recycling drop-off site very near the range, or be at the fisherman’s parking lot north of there, because a bullet could ricochet.

Neighbor Jesse Day said it sounded like a concussion grenade was set off in violation of the town’s noise ordinance. “It seems like the Police Departments are taking advantage of us. It’s gotten unbearable.”

Councilman Gene Weibl said sometimes even he hears the gunfire at his home, about seven blocks to the east.

Council member Mike Perrine said he built the range when he was a town employee, but circumstances change and “you can’t guard against an accident.”

On member Greg Miller’s motion the council voted 5-0 to place a moratorium on outside agencies using the firing range; Barnes was directed to limit its use by the town’s officers to handguns and shotguns only until another range for practice can be found.

Barnes said going to another location will carry an additional expense for fuel, officers’ travel time and paying for a range instructor, which in the past departments using the range have provided. Police are required by state law to qualify with their weapons during the year.

In a related police matter, Barnes urged residents to register at to sign up for local emergency and information alerts through the free Nixle public messaging service. Residents can choose to receive phone or email notices.

Also Wednesday, the Town Council agreed to replace a guardrail on Verplank Road that it had installed on private property to prevent vehicles from going off the road. Barnes was asked to pursue reimbursement from the driver of the vehicle who damaged the guardrail.

The issue arose as the council considered accepting relocated Verplank and related infrastructure tied to the KEJOB commercial subdivision of Bob Kerr east of Lake Shore Ford. Building commissioner Bill Arney said the guardrail was not on the plat and not required of Kerr when the project was approved.

On the Advisory Plan Commission’s recommendation, the council unanimously accepted the subdivision improvements; Kerr will deposit a $5,000 check as security for a one-year maintenance bond.

A street sign for Verplank at U.S. 20 will be installed soon.


Posted 5/11/2012