Willington residents ‘in limbo’ regarding police gun range

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WILLINGTON - It will be a waiting game for residents in one eastern Connecticut town.

Willington residents are "in limbo," anticipating a decision about placing a Connecticut State Police gun range in the center of town.

"We're just sort of hanging out here," said First Selectman Christina Mailhos.

State experts were expected to officially study the proposed site this past fall for any environmental concerns. That evaluation never happened.

"As far as we know, they don't have the money to do the study yet," said Mailhos.

In the meantime, Willington residents, in addition to attending informational meetings in droves and rallying at the state capital, approved the use of up to $100,000 in town funds to hire experts for their own site analysis. Mailhos said approximately $48,000 has already been used and that she and a town committee that was formed to fight the gun range are ready to use more funds.

Mailhos couldn't share the results found by Willington's experts but said they aren't surprising. If they differ from what the state eventually releases, Mailhos said court is an option.

"We feel like we've done our homework and that we're ready," Mailhos said. "We're almost over-prepared at this point but we don't have any time frame."

The uncertainty isn't sitting well with Todd Bissonnette, a 10-year resident of Willington.

"It'll be a war zone," said the retiree of what he anticipates will be noise issues from the range. "How does anyone have a family outing? A picnic? A christening? A baby shower in the backyard? You will hear the gunfire for 5 miles continuous at 80 shooters possibly at a time."

State Police are considering moving their current Simsbury range to one of three potential sites in Willington or East Windsor. Those sites were from a list of 20 potential candidates.

State Police have been using the Simsbury location since the early 1960s and say a more modern facility is needed to meet more modern threats such, as active shooters.

The Simsbury location is also in a flood zone and is frequently flooded out, which costs the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

The plan calls for a state-of-the-art, 55,000-square-foot facility with several gun ranges, parking spots, classrooms and storage. The range would be used primarily by State Police, but would also be made available to other federal, state and local agencies when necessary.

An overcapacity crowd packed into Willington Public Library Thursday evening to hear from Congressman Joe Courtney who proposed having State Police share an East Windsor facility where CT National Guardsmen train.

"We wanna be smart but we also want to help the good guys out there which I think the State Police are and this is a way we can do both," said Courtney.

Another hearing is scheduled for February 2.