WATERLOO — Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson wants to buy a former quarry currently used as a law enforcement firing range and training center.
But members of the county Board of Supervisors were gun-shy Tuesday about his plans to buy the 122-acre Pint’s Quarry, located in and east of Raymond north of Dubuque Road, from BMC Aggregates for $150,000.
The supervisors delayed action on a resolution to pursue the acquisition to gather more information and public input.
“This is going to impact the people in the area, so I’d like their input,” said Supervisor Dan Trelka. “It’s a lot of land … so the public input is very important to me.”
There was significant opposition from Raymond residents concerned about noise and stray bullets when the county signed a 99-year, $1 per year lease to create what’s known as the Raymond Range Training Facility in 2009.
Thompson has used room and board funds collected from those serving sentences in the county jail to develop the site, which includes firing ranges and classrooms used by multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Waterloo Police Department and Iowa State Patrol.
He plans to use the room and board funds, spread out over three years, to pay for the quarry purchase.
Thompson said owning the land will allow him to continue investing in improvements, including sound and safety mitigation efforts, and “to do things on a more permanent basis than we’ve been able to do as a lessee of the property.”
“This really gives us the opportunity to firmly and securely develop this property the way we’ve always intended to do, and to be better neighbors than what we’ve had the ability to do so far,” he said.
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The sheriff is currently leasing 100 acres at the quarry. Buying the full site would add 22 acres currently being farmed directly behind the firing range berms.
Supervisor Chris Schwartz said he supported the plan based on Thompson’s belief it would improve safety at the range. But board chairman Tom Little joined Trelka is requesting more time for public input.
Supervisor Craig White wasn’t in favor of the plan and disagreed when Thompson said the room and board funds weren’t taxpayer dollars.
“The county doesn’t need to own anymore land, period, as far as I’m concerned,” White said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to be buying that land up.”
Thompson said he believes Iowa law gives him the ability to spend the room and board revenue to buy the land without the supervisors’ approval. But the situation falls into a “gray area” because the county would be required to own title to the property.
Thompson said he believed it was more transparent to seek board authorization first.
But Trelka indicated Thompson might need to conduct the transaction without board approval.
“I realize that the funds that we getting from room and board are at the discretion of the elected sheriff,” he said. “If the sheriff thinks he can go it alone, why doesn’t he?”
Board members set no timeline on when the measure might return to them for consideration.