Some Kane County Board members took shots at the sheriff Tuesday, but they didn't shoot down a new firing range for his deputies.
The board, with some significant grumbling about the cost that had doubled, approved Tuesday a $1.9 million shooting range for sheriff's employees. The range will be an addition to existing sheriff and jail facilities at the judicial campus on Route 38.
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Sheriff's deputies have been buying time at the range for the St. Charles Police Department to meet legal qualifications for training and practice with their weapons. The county began that relationship with St. Charles when the county's shooting range, at the old jail and sheriff's office on Fabyan Parkway, flooded with lead-contaminated water last year.
Sheriff Pat Perez pitched the plan for a new range at that time by saying the 24-hour nature of his staff made using the St. Charles facility, which it only had access to during the day, a nightmare for overtime costs. An initial estimate predicted the new range would cost about $1 million. Board members approved the plan without much hesitation. But when the project recently went to bid, the price tag doubled.
Several county board members, including finance committee Chairman John Hoscheit, said the new range never would have received initial approval at the $1.9 million price. Such a big-ticket item should be part of a long-term capital projects list, Hoscheit argued.
He wasn't present for Tuesday's vote, but board member Phil Lewis took up that torch. He said the new range should coincide with the training and licensing of local concealed carry permit holders. He also said the new range should await the election of a new sheriff in November and be part of an overall plan to address needs at the judicial campus.
"I hate to see this one go through as a stand-alone capital project," Lewis said.
Board members Mark Davoust, Becky Gillam and Mike Donahue joined Lewis as the lone "no" votes on the project.
The rest of the board was swayed by Perez's arguments. He said the range will only cost more later. Perez also said the legal liability of the county training members of the public to use guns, for concealed carry or otherwise, would be huge.
"If someone has an accidental discharge (at the range), shoots themselves or shoots others, or gets qualified under the sheriff's office and shoots someone, get out the checkbook," Perez said. "The role of government is not to create a profit. The role of government is to provide a service."
Despite what Perez said, the county will fund the cost of the new range by profits Perez helped create. The sheriff has worked with the Kane County State's Attorney's office and local judges to keep the local population of the jail down. That's freed up beds for use by federal marshal prisoners. The county earns daily profits from every federal prisoner it hosts at the jail. Nearly $5 million has come to the county over the past two fiscal years from that program.
Construction of the new range will begin in May. It will open in October.