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Old June 28, 2002, 06:03 PM   #1
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(NJ) Cleanup cost spurs closing of gun range

Cleanup cost spurs closing of gun range
Thursday, June 20, 2002

Staff Writer

FORT LEE - The Borough Council has shut down the Police Department's shooting range after learning it will cost $100,000 to clean up lead-contaminated soil at the Palisade Terrace training facility.

Noise pollution generated from the weekly firing of guns over the past several decades made matters worse, said Mayor Jack Alter, who lives in The Plaza - a 171-unit co-op building that is adjacent to the range.

"When the range was built, it was there by itself," Alter said of the outdoor range, which opened about 50 years ago. "Now it's surrounded by three large buildings, and I happen to live in one of them. The racket is tremendous."

Over the years, as high-rise apartments sprouted up throughout the borough, elected officials restricted police officers' use of the range to a few hours each week. The restrictions also limited the use of the facility to Fort Lee police officers, Alter said.

Last month when the Borough Council learned the state required the town to clean up the lead in the soil at an estimated $100,000, Alter said it made economic sense to permanently shut down the range on June 1.

"The noise has always been an issue, but the trigger was economics," the mayor said. "It's the last time we're going to pay the bill."

The council must still clean up the soil at the site, but with guns no longer being fired - and the lead from ammunition no longer seeping into the ground - taxpayers won't face having to shell out more money down the line, Alter added.

Some opponents of the council's decision say the absence of a local shooting range will cost Fort Lee in overtime pay because the 107-member police force will have to drive to Mahwah to use the shooting range at the Bergen County Police Academy.

Officer Mark Finocchiaro, president of the Fort Lee Policemen's Benevolent Association, said having the range within the borough made the Police Department more efficient.

"If the mayor didn't live there, would this have happened?" said Finocchiaro, whose father helped build the range. "I don't think so."

State law requires police officers at least twice a year to meet certain weapons handling standards in order to keep their gun licenses.

"I kind of understand the people who live around there," said Police Chief Thomas Tessaro. "It can be a little nerve-racking. But the fact of life is we must qualify [with the state]."

In Fort Lee, officers on duty were able to drive over to the local range off Palisade Avenue, fulfill their weapons requirements in about half an hour, and go back to their patrols, Tessaro said.

Driving to Mahwah will take officers off their patrols for at least a couple of hours, Tessaro said, explaining that he accepts the council's decision but hopes that in a few years his borough will be able to build an indoor shooting range to accommodate the growing department. The Police Department will continue to have exclusive access to the range on Palisade Terrace and use it for other training exercises.

"Maybe down the line in the future some other solutions can be made, and we can come back to a more local situation," Tessaro said. "It's a convenience factor."

Marvin Rothenberg, who lives in The Plaza and is the secretary and treasurer of the Fort Lee Cooperative and Condominium Association, said he and fellow tenants thought the range had been shut down because of the noise, and that he hadn't been told about the lead contamination in the soil.

Rothenberg said he has heard some of his neighbors complain about the noise from the range, but the noise hasn't bothered him since he moved into The Plaza seven years ago.

"We have a number of people here who are bothered by it," Rothenberg said about the range. "It's a matter of noise tolerance. Personally, I thought we had no right to complain, because it was there when we moved in."

Personally, I thought we had no right to complain, because it was there when we moved in
That pretty much says it all.......
"That a free citizen should have to go before a committee, hat in hand, and pray for permission to bear arms - fantastic! Arm your daughter, sir, and pay no attention to petty bureaucrats." Robert Heinlein - Red Planet
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Old June 28, 2002, 06:09 PM   #2
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Had just the opposite here. Our county run range was considering shutting down because it wasn't making tons of money. They found out if they shut it down, they had to pay megabucks to clean up all of the lead after 30+ years. They promptly decided it was cost effective to continue letting it operate.
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Old June 28, 2002, 06:18 PM   #3
Join Date: December 27, 2001
Location: New Jersey
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A Police Pistol Range that gets used?......I'm impressed!! The new "state of the art" Police Pistol Range/Training Facility in East Brunswick (NJ) suffers from far less use than was originally anticipated. My vote: Open it to the public!
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Old June 28, 2002, 08:06 PM   #4
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Sounds like they have a condo-trash mayor problem.
He'd probably try to shut down the airport if he moved under the flight path.

Gonna cost them more money in the long run but he will have his precious quiet.

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Old June 28, 2002, 10:00 PM   #5
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I'm with you, FrankK.

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Old June 28, 2002, 10:16 PM   #6
Join Date: December 31, 2001
Location: Northern IN
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I remember 20 years ago gun ranges got paid for the lead that was reclaimed from their land, what ever happened to recycling? Or is it considered so toxic now that no one wants to touch it unless they get paid. I think I smell scam.
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