police leaders

Mansfield Police Chief Ken Coontz (right) and Assistant Chief Keith Porch speak during a Safety Committee meeting Tuesday prior to a Mansfield City Council session.

MANSFIELD -- City Council may soon hear plans for a new indoor shooting range for the Mansfield Police Division.

Police Chief Ken Coontz and Assistant Chief Keith Porch told council's Safety Committee on Tuesday they have worked with city leaders to develop a long-term solution that began two years ago when the old range in the municipal building had to be closed for lead clean-up.

"We are on the cusp of getting a resolution," said Coontz, adding that re-opening the former range was not a viable option for a variety of reasons.

Safety-Service Director Lori Cope said Mayor Tim Theaker, who did not attend Tuesday's council session, has worked on the issue for the past two years and provided lawmakers with a list of 32 options or issues the city has considered.

"When we have the final numbers, we will present it through (council's) Finance Committee," Cope said, saying construction of such a new site could top $1 million.

She said funding options could include a bond issue or perhaps borrowing the money from the city's water fund and repaying it. Cope said no plans have been finalized.

Lori Cope

Mansfield Safety-Service Director Lori Cope discusses the need for a new police department shooting range on Tuesday during a Mansfield City Council Safety Committee meeting.

"I started my career with the police department more than 20 years ago and I could not be more passionate about this," Cope said.

Coontz said an indoor shooting range, including a large-enough space for AR-15 rifle training, is a necessity for the police department.

"We are already outgunned in the community," the chief said, pointing to weapons recovered from six houses during a recent drug sweep.

"When you see (a photo) of the collection of handguns, semi-automatics, Uzis, rifles ... it will take your breath back for a second when you realize those came from six houses of local drug dealers in our community," Coontz said.

The chief said the MPD has been using other entities' firing ranges, including the Richland County Fish and Game Club's site on Poth Road and the Lexington Police Department's facility.

Porch said the department was grateful to both organizations for their assistance.

"Without those two locations, we would have definitely been in a tough spot," Porch said.

Coontz told council members people often get confused at the difference between qualifying and training. The Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy establishes annual basic shooting qualifications officers must maintain.

The MPD goes beyond that to train its officers more frequently in terms of shooting and their ability to accurately hit targets and make good judgments, the chief said.

"If you're going to have a fire department, you need fire trucks," Coontz said. "If you're going to have a police department, you gotta have a shooting range."

In other action Tuesday, Mansfield City Council:

-- Approved a plan to solicit proposals for engineering and design proposals related to part of the planned multi-use path from Trimble Road to Marion Avenue.

-- Approved spending $25,000 for a 1996 pumper fire truck from the Washington Township Fire Department. The vehicle will be purchased via "rent-to-own" while a newer MFD pumper, damaged in an accident, is being repaired. Fire Chief Steven Strickling said insurance will cover the costs of the pumper, which will be placed into reserve when the newer truck is repaired and returned to usage.

-- Heard about a revised city policy regarding winter snow plowing and salting that will be in effect this winter. Interim Public Works Director Dave Remy said the revised policy is necessary due to a limited amount of salt available this year.

-- Approved the retirement of Mansfield Police Department K-9 Officer Dani.

-- Accepted a $2,000 donation from the Norfolk Southern Foundation to be used in the city's Police Athletic League program.


Several members of the Mansfield Police Department's Explorer Post were honored during Tuesday's City Council meeting for more than 1,000 hours of service during the recent haunted prison activities at the former Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield.


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