The Tioga Sports Park Association has been working for several years to build a gun range somewhere in Coos County. During the reign of Nikki Whitty, John Griffith and Kevin Stufflebean the commission gave the organization a small section of county forest in the vicinity of the Beaver Hill Disposal Site. According to testimony at a recent public hearing TSPA has spent more than $300,000 on engineering and design to provide gun enthusiasts and law enforcement personnel with a safe place to “get familiar with their weapons”. TSPA has hopes of providing 100, 300, 500 and 1000 yard ranges and has asked the BOC to provide them with $170,000 in economic development funds. Of all the grant applications submitted to the county, including the SCDC request, the TSPA had by far the best business plan and stands to be self supporting once it is operating.
Now, I grew up with guns, my step dad was a gunsmith by avocation when he wasn’t working as a fireman. Instead of doing dishes every night I had to do reloads. The linen closet was filled with gunpowder, shot, wad, spent casings and bullets and I had to walk past thirty three rifles and shotguns lined up against the wall to get to my bedroom. It’s been years since I have gone shooting but I used to be deadly at 500 yards with a long rifle. Having said all that, I don’t much care one way or the other if this range comes to pass or if someone has a convenient place to train as a sniper. (Really, 1000 yards?).
The large conference room at the Owen Bldg was packed with gun proponents, many of whom long eschewed shaving in favor of very long and very bushy beards. There was quite of bit of testimony ranging from the “explosive growth” in gun sales and the 26,000 jobs created by gun manufacturing and the draw such a park would have on local tourism. One bearded young man proudly announced he was going to be a new father and he wanted to have a safe place where he could “pack up his daughter and go shooting.” Serial commissioner candidate Dale Pennie veered off into the 2nd Amendment refusing to give up his guns unless the “government gives up theirs.” Pennie has long been a person of interest in the mysterious disappearance and suspected murder of his brother Glenn Pennie. (Listening to him speak I couldn’t help but wonder how guns might have factored into that case.)
Neither John Sweet nor Melissa Cribbins, both of whom have filed their candidacy for reelection, were moved by the testimony to provide financial support at this time. Sweet argued that the county is broke and within the next two years will be more broke and if they support Tioga then somehow there may not be money available down the road for clerks, assessors and deputies. Commissioner Bob Main interjected that the county’s economic development fund receives funding from the Oregon State Lottery and that these funds are not typically used to supplement general fund expenses like clerks and deputies.
What is really interesting about Sweet’s position, which in my opinion is just an arbitrary dislike for the project and or the people pushing it, is that he is using future costs of providing public services as the excuse to dismiss the project. At the same time, Sweet is colluding with a handful of civic leaders to deprive the county of millions of dollars in funding from the Jordan Cove LNG project by pushing a fifteen year tax abatement. It is hard to rationalize the disconnect between providing $170K in lottery money to support a major part of the local culture and scheming to give a Canadian company more than half a billion dollars in tax breaks. There is really something wrong with this logic.
Actually, my area of expertise was archery… maybe we should develop a nice quiet archery range.