With the appropriation of surrendered bail money coming their way from the courts, the Oakdale Police Department will be able to renovate its gun range in the city to make it safer as well as give it resilience for years to come.
In 2003, the city accepted an offer from a Canadian company to install sliced tires as a backing material at no cost for its police range located on Liberini Avenue. The Canadian firm made their profits by taking used tires off from tire distributors and charging a fee for disposal.
According to Police Chief Lester Jenkins, the plan at the time was that this company would recycle the tires every 10 to 15 years as the range developed “hot spots” due to excessive lead accumulation and the deterioration and destruction of the backing from the gunshots.
“After only two to three years, the company went out of business and the opportunity to exchange old shot out bales for new bales went with it,” Jenkins said. “Now, after 12 years of use, the bottom tire bales have been shot so often they are collapsing inward.”
Jenkins said the top tire bales were leaning forward and half of the police range had to be closed off due to concerns of the 3000-pound stacks falling on personnel. In addition to the collapse, there were also concerns of the tires catching fire or the site being deemed a hazardous site due to tires containing large amounts of lead and other heavy metals from the ammunition used.
During firing, police have also experienced dangerous ricochets when bullets were striking expended bullets inside of the bales.
Due to all the hazards, city officials had the tires removed last month.
But since Oakdale officers, by policy, have to maintain proficiency and stay current on tactical situations, not having a useable range in the city would make training and qualification problematic since the closest available range is in Modesto on the west side of the county.
According to Jenkins, training costs would soar since officers would have to travel, and be paid for, an hour in each direction just to get to and from the facility. Also, since the range is used by many other police agencies, training facilities, and SWAT teams, scheduling sufficient range times could be challenging.
In June, police staff contacted the National Rifle Association’s Range Technical Team to inspect the city’s range and offer suggestions.
The NRA team advised utilizing an earthen berm slope, similar to what was used prior to 2003. An advantage to the earthen berms, according to Jenkins, is that the city would be able to contract with a private company that would pay to harvest the lead for ammunition manufacturing.
“As you know, lead can be an expensive commodity,” Jenkins said.
The Oakdale Irrigation District will construct the new design with 2,000 cubic yards of soil at a cost of $18,676. OID had suitable soil that they were willing to provide at no cost and only charged the department for the equipment and the costs of their three operators for the construction.
Jenkins said GCU Trucking will haul the dirt from OID’s dirt storage site for $75 per hour – 25 percent less than their standard rate. The final cost for the hauling could vary from $9,375 to $13,500 depending on the length of time required to build the berms and haul the dirt from the OID dirt storage site.
Jenkins said that though the $32,176 cost of the project would come from the city’s General Fund, the city was awarded over $30,000 in forfeited bail money from the courts that would nearly cover the cost.