By Alex Lippa
---- — PLAISTOW— Police chief Stephen Savage describes the town’s shooting range as a “sand pit.” If selectmen approves close to $33,000 in donations, the range soon will receive an upgrade.
Savage has been working diligently for the last five years to solicit donations, the most notable of which will reclaim the land which officers use to shoot. Police use the range to train for mandatory state qualifications.
“Where we shoot can sometimes be water,” Savage said. “We need to do a significant backfill, which would make it easier to shoot.”
The shooting range has been used for more than 25 years. It’s located on Wilder Drive, next to the highway garage.
Major donations for the project would come from the Home Depot Foundation, which will send volunteers to help with construction.
“The important thing is that we are doing this on our own, rather than asking the taxpayers,” Savage said. “This is near and dear to us.”
Other improvements include vinyl siding, windows and shutters for the range building, and a cabinet and countertop.
The range is used to train not only Plaistow police, but Haverhill, Mass., and Atkinson officers as well. The city of Haverhill donated $750 of reclaimed material for the project.
“This should give the people a sense that this wall which exists between us and Haverhill doesn’t exist. Our law enforcement opportunities often require us to work across the border,” Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said. “When it comes to public safety, we are all in this together. These types of intermunicipal relationships help reinforce that.”
The range also is used by the U.S. Postal Service inspectors. They donated $1,000 for steel target frames and a steel storage box.
Selectmen will hold a public hearing Monday to discuss the donations. They are expected to approve accepting them.
“It is important our officers have that specialized training,” Fitzgerald said.
Savage said he hopes this is just one of the first steps in improving the firing range.
“We have hired a consultant, who has experience in firing ranges,” Savage said. “Over the years, we have shot down there, there is some lead contamination. We need to clean it up so we can use it going forward.”
Savage said all work not done by Home Depot volunteers would be done by police. A local contractor has volunteered his time to assist with the project.
Over the years, the range has seen numerous repairs. The range was fenced in several years ago to prevent anyone from accidentally wandering in. In 2008, an indoor classroom was built so police can hold classes on site.