Willington residents turn out in record numbers to vote on proposed shooting range

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WILLINGTON -- Ballot counting took longer than usual Tuesday night, but voting in Willington did too.

More than 33 percent of town residents came out to vote on a controversial referendum regarding a possible Connecticut State Police gun range in town. Moderators said that is three times as many voters than they normally see at polls.

Lines stretched outside of Town Hall at times.

Geoffrey Ecker wasn’t surprised by the tremendous turnout. He’s a board member of the opposition group UNWillington.

“It's you know, as much a community event, as it is a political one,” said Ecker of the booth he and other opponents manned outside of the polls. They passed out signs to community members. More than 1,200 anti-gun range signs already dot Willington lawns.

Though the community has a resounding opinion against the gun range, the well-attended vote won’t decide its fate.

“It's really not, in the end, for or against the gun range, it's really about the town having the resources to defend itself,” said Ecker, explaining that a "yes" on Tuesday’s referendum is actually supporting the opposition.

The 878-194 approval gives town officials permission to spend $100,000 on legal and environmental experts.

Ecker said town leaders will use those resources to fight the gun range.

Stephen Moller said he voted yes because he wanted more information on the state’s idea. “I'm undecided yet. I got to find out what the environmentalists are going to say.”

The state is also considering a location in East Windsor for the same gun range.

The facility currently used for police training is in Simsbury.