CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — The Spurwink Rod and Gun Club has a schedule for renovations with a goal of resuming live fire on its shortest shooting range by the end of the year.
The gun club started work on a so-called “no-blue-sky shot containment system” at the beginning of the month. Club President Tammy Walter and former President Mark Mayone said they hope to have the work completed on the 25-yard range by the first week of December.
The design is by safety evaluator Rick LaRosa, who inspected the club in July. LaRosa said the club was not safe and its design plans for the range were inadequate, which resulted in Police Chief Neil Williams suspending live fire at the Sawyer Road club.
The town hired LaRosa as part of a new licensing process for gun clubs. Although the club has existed for more than 60 years, it must register and obtain a license under the ordinance enacted in early 2014.
The Town Council on Sept. 14 decided it will wait until October to decide whether to approve a license for the club, but councilors said they will probably conditionally approve it. If approved, the club could resume live fire on its 25-yard range when it can demonstrate 100 percent shot containment.
Walter and Mayone said the club has had a plan to install the no-blue-sky system for several years.
“The town did not force this design on us,” Mayone said.
He said the club voted three years ago to install the overhead system after residents of the Cross Hill neighborhood said they found bullets lodged in the sides of their homes.
“We wanted to get out in front of any safety issues that could arise,” Mayone said.
Mayone and Walter said money was an issue, however, which is why the system still isn’t in place. They said the club held small fundraisers over the years, but didn’t raise much.
“When we decided to be a big-boy, big-girl club it was like, ‘OK, how do we get money to fund this?’” Mayone said. “When we decided to do a no-blue-sky we knew it was time to get serious.”
LaRosa at an Aug. 10 Town Council meeting told councilors it would cost the club “a couple hundred thousand dollars” to complete its 25-yard range and $1 million to complete everything, including the club’s 50-meter and 100-yard ranges.
Through grants, a Go Fund Me page, and increased membership fees, the club has been saving money for its repairs, although Mayone and Walter said LaRosa’s price estimations were high. They said the price he gave the council was for a range just starting out.
Mayone and Walter said over the past three years the club has spent $40,000-$50,000 on renovating the 25-yard range, with $21,000 of that spent since July.
“We’re about 15 to 20 percent short of our goal to finish,” Mayone said.
According to Mayone and Walter, volunteers and donations are the difference between the club’s spending and LaRosa’s estimate. They said most of their building materials have been donated, and all of workers are volunteering their time.
“We don’t pay for labor,” Walter said. “That’d be a huge cost.”
The club has work parties every Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday where people are working on the the range, and Mayone and Walter said local engineers, architects, and carpenters have been volunteering.
“Volunteers, members or not, help us because they care,” Walter said. “We’ve had an outpouring of support from the community.”
Mayone and Walter said LaRosa’s estimate also didn’t consider the unique situation the club is in because of its longevity. Because it was in place for many years before the Cross Hill development was built, the club is protected under a grandfathering clause.
“We don’t have to mitigate noise, that’s a huge burden off us,” Mayone said. “The grandfathering clause has saved us tons.”
As for the completion of the entire range, Mayone and Walter said it won’t cost $1 million. Although they originally thought it would cost $90,000 before hearing from LaRosa, they said now they’re unsure what the cost will be.
Mayone said he plans to have the 50-meter range, which is used mostly by youth shooters, to be completed within two years. The 100-yard range is expected to be done within four years.
Mayone said he hopes the Cross Hill neighbors won’t interfere as the club works on its longer ranges over the next few years.
“We’re working to create more-than-reasonable standards of safety and they’re still trying to shut us down because they have buyers’ remorse or something,” Mayone said.
Despite the anger and disagreement between the club and the neighbors, Mayone and Walter said they all want the same thing: safety.
“If anyone ever got hurt I would never forgive myself, especially as president,” Walter said.
Mayone said the 25-yard range is going to be transformed over the next couple of weeks after the bullet-proof steel enclosure arrives. With the Oct. 14 Town Council meeting around the corner, Mayone and Walter said they hope councilors will see that the club is on track to have 100 percent shot containment.