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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: 'Ready, fire, aim' on indoor range

A law enforcement training center opponent makes her opinion known. A law enforcement training center opponent makes her opinion known.

The biggest news to come out of Sheriff Charlie McDonald’s public trip to the woodshed last week was how many questions remain about his $20 million training center.

Interrogated by a room filled with skeptical voters, McDonald said he didn’t have answers about future costs or wasn’t responsible for the chain of decisions that led to approval of this controversial project, including where it’s located.
It’s looking more and more as if the Board of Commissioners made this decision in a “ready fire aim” manner that’s becoming a pattern — the Hendersonville High School construction plan and artificial turf fields for prep sports, exhibits 1 and 2.
Someone has suggested that the commissioners ought to boot the whole thing for a year and let the voters decide. It’s not a bad idea. If McDonald draws an opponent who runs against the $20 million facility, then we’ll know soon enough if the public supports this investment. A Republican primary (where this race almost certainly would be decided) is only a year away. A one-year timeout would give time to fully answer the questions. Here are a few questions that the public is asking:
• What is the annual operating cost of the facility? When McDonald said Monday night he didn’t know, one speaker was floored. “How can you support a facility you don’t know the cost of operating?” he asked.
• What is the true turn-key cost? McDonald and county commissioners proudly point to the fact that the facility will have a backup 911 center. How much does it cost? Andrew Walters, an opponent of the training center, did some independent reporting on the question. Walters told us that the state 911 Board director told him that the state doesn’t endorse spending on a stand-alone dispatch operation as a backup. “The executive director said the 911 Board prefers to see backup facilities provided through a reciprocal agreement with an adjacent county,” Walters said.
• What are the chances that any other state or local agencies will offset the operating cost? Commissioner Bill Lapsley made a pass this line of questioning before he gave up and voted yes. The question remains unanswered, though early indications are Henderson County taxpayers alone will pay. “I’ve already made clear that I’m not anticipating getting any state money for the law enforcement center,” Rep. Chuck McGrady says.
• Is there a cheaper way to meet the sheriff’s shooting range and training needs?
These are only a few of the questions raised at Monday night’s Q&A. The county commissioners, known for going deep in the weeds on budget requests a fraction of this size, ought to be the ones asking the questions.