Francine Caplan wasn’t sure she’d live to see the day where she didn’t hear a hail of gunfire just blocks away from her home. She and her neighbors had been pushing for what seemed like forever—actually more than two decades—for the city to move the outdoor police firing range in Beaver Hills.
Not only did she, the chair of a committee that helped make an indoor firing range happen, live to see the completion of that new range. But on Friday she got to help city and state officials cut the ribbon on a new state-of-the-art indoor firing range for the police academy in the West Rock neighborhood.
Construction on the project started about 18 months ago with drainage work by the Public Works Department. The bulk of the construction was completed in the last 12 to 15 months including the installation of ballistic rubber and layers of other materials to kill the sound of gunfire including ROCKWOOL insulation.
In addition to the firing range, an onsite classroom was built as part of the new campus. The range also has an enormous ventilation system that is capable of pulling smoke and lead particles away from those firing on the range in about a minute.
The new firing range is located at the former George D. Libby Reserve Center at 170 Wintergreen Ave. The city struck a deal with the federal government back in 2011 to acquire the property; the funding to cover its construction cost just came through from the state in 2015. (Read more about that here.)
City Engineer Giovanni Zinn said having the city act as its own general contractor helped save between $200,000 and $300,000. The total pricetag for the project is $1.5 million, paid for with $1 million from the state and $500,000 in city capital funds.
Zinn said when the range was being certified, the inspector said it was one of the quietest he’d ever heard.
“We’re really happy about it,” he said. “You can’t hear it from the street when you’re outside. The garage door is probably where sound leaks the most.”
“This worked not only for the police department but the community around it,” he added.
And for those who might still have heartburn about the cost, Assistant Chief Luiz Casanova, who acted as the police liaison to the project, reminded everyone that the city will have the opportunity to get some return on its investment.
“This range is one of the nicest ranges in the state of Connecticut, and it will probably be utilized by departments all over the state. and it will bring revenue into the city,” he said.
That statement made State Rep. Toni Walker, chair of the legislature’s appropriation committee, cheer.
“I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that we’re going to charge other police departments,” she said. “No more free rides in New Haven. New Haven needs to pay their bills too so, therefore, we do work hard at giving state of the art activities and opportunities for our police departments and we want everybody to be on the same par but we want them to pay for it.”
Police Chief Anthony Campbell said the next recruit class will be seated Sept. 27 but cadets won’t get to the firearms part of their training for about four months. In-service firearm training for current police officers is set to begin immediately.
“This range symbolizes what can be accomplished when the community and the police come together,” he said. “This range is not simply a marker but a symbol of the bright future that both the New Haven Police Department and the members of the City of New Haven have together.”
Mayor Toni Harp echoed Campbell’s remarks in her own recognition of the neighbors, city staff, members of both the state and federal delegations who helped make the project a reality.
“This new facility represents respect and cooperation among all these groups,” she said. “The list of special accommodations and features built into this new facility makes me proud to be the mayor of a city where so much collaboration takes place.”
Caplan said now that the firing range is done she’s looking forward to hanging up her hat as chair of the Firing Range Committee. She said she might take up a new cause, but not right away.
“I’m just overjoyed,” she said. “I can be an activist on something else, but I’m going to take a break. The whole community came together. We were always pro-police. We wanted them to have a good training facility, and they knew that.”
Caplan did one last thing before she took off her committee chair hat. She said emailed her neighbors to let them know that when they hear gunshots now, they actually should call the police.
“Because,” she noted, “it’s not the firing range anymore.”