By SEAN BATURA
Hays County Commissioners expressed general agreement about the desirability of a countywide shooting range at Tuesday’s regular meeting. As is always the case with ambitious county projects, though, funding is the trick.
The county already is on the hook for $207 million in road bonds after a successful election in November, though the state has pledged to pay back up to $133.2 million. However, the county also wishes to build a new jail and a new administration building, and the property tax rate of 46 cents per $100 of value already approaches the 50-cent threshold that commissioners have set as a maximum during discussion about those projects.
“If you’re talking about 500 acres, then we’re talking about somewhere between $4 million and $8 million for purchasing that land,” said Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner Karen Ford (D-Dripping Springs) said about the price tag for a shooting range. “I just want to make sure that we’re not setting an expectation that we’re not going to be able to deliver on.”
Precinct 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton (D-Kyle) said the court should consider that the actual size would be constrained by the topography of the land, even though the current concept for the complex had grown considerably since it’s inception.
Barton advised that the court task a citizens committee with formulating financing recommendations, adding that it might be possible for the county to acquire an abandoned quarry site from the private sector at no cost. Barton said he thinks the county should act as a “catalyst” that would bring “interested partners” together to collaborate on financing the shooting complex.
The court appointed members to a citizen committee tasked with finding a site for the Hays County Shooting Sports Complex, which will serve as a multi-discipline educational and safety training facility. The court also adopted bylaws for the committee.
The ten members of the committee are Stephen Marlow, Charles Catt, Richard Gillespie, Mark Bennett, John Sanford, Tomas Mijares, Herman Waters, Willy T. Ribbs, J.B. Kolodzey, and Gary Conner.
Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-San Marcos) said he would consider using money from the Hays County Parks Fund to build the shooting complex project.
“I’m willing to (put) all options on the table, in seeing how we can put this together correctly to make this a reality in Hays County,” Conley said.
He recommended the motion to approve the bylaws and appoint committee members include a provision allowing the committee to receive help from county staff in finding a location for the shooting complex.
“If we build that design this properly, I am convinced that this will be another asset that will promote and that will build our tourism economy in Hays County, which is vitally important to the entire county,” Conley said. “I think every city and undeveloped area of the county has an interest in tourism — I know my precinct does.”
Ford later said outside the meeting that voters should determine if county money should be used for the shooting facility, though she repeated that she believes the facility should be built.
“I personally feel that our current parks and open space money should not be used for it because that’s not what the bond language said,” Ford said. “I sure would like for private money to make it happen, but it might need a little boost to get it.”
Ford likened the use of public money to build the shooting complex to using county funds for other recreational facilities like tennis courts and soccer fields.
“There’s really no downside to it, I don’t think, other than a noise factor for neighbors, and that’s always a concern, so it’s all about location, location, location,” Ford said.
During his testimony at the yesterday’s meeting, Marlow said Hays County staff has identified 86 pieces of property that were sufficiently large and and remote to spare residents the disturbance of hearing gunshots from the complex.
“The costs (of the citizen committee) really have been minimal,” Barton said. “Virtually all the work has been done by volunteers. I’ve spent a lot of time, and Commissioner Conley has have spent some time, and then we’re asking staff to make things like maps available and perhaps assist on grant applications. There’s no direct cost to the county, but there’ll be some small incidental costs for staff.”
Barton said the committee will publish a quarterly schedule to appear on the county’s website 15 days before each regular meetings, though the committee can hold special interim meetings.
“My understanding is that (the committee is) not required to be subject to open meetings law, but just as a matter of policy, we’re making the meetings open to the public,” Barton said.
Stephen Marlow, who has been named to Hays County’s citizens committee to look into a shooting range, discusses the matter with commissioners. Photo by Sean Batura.Email | Print