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BIG CROWD PROTESTS SHOOTING RANGE

Saluda residents gathered on the courthouse steps to listen to a speaker. Saluda residents gathered on the courthouse steps to listen to a speaker.

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A crowd of nearly 200 people gathered at the Grove Street Courthouse on Saturday, protesting a shooting range in Saluda and expressing anger that county officials barred them from a meeting inside where county officials described construction plans to the closest neighbors.
Deputies posted outside said they were told that the county identified property owners within a half mile and sent them letters. Those were allowed in. Others, including the news media, were barred from attending.
County Manager Steve Wyatt said Friday afternoon that officals and engineers planning the shooting range and law enforcement training center would brief the news media later.
At 10 a.m. residents of the Macedonia Road area and other Saluda residents had filled the parking lot and congregated at the front of the courthouse. Later, the crowd stood on the courthouse steps and listened to speakers excoriate the idea of a shooting range and express frustration that the county had closed the information meeting.

Most people outside the courthouse said they felt entitled to be in the meeting. Pamela Sacco’s grandfather bought 100 acres on Macedonia Road 100 years ago, she said, and she has been visiting the land since she was a little girl and now lives on it.

“When they shoot the bullets they’re going to go over their property and land on me,” said Pamela Sacco, who was denied entrance. “I learned to walk there. It’s in my soul. To me it’s like building something in DuPont Forest. It’s beautiful and pristine and the birds, the geese come into our lake.”

Chandler Ward lives close to the property but did not get an invitation to Saturday’s information

“I think mine’s close enough to qualify,” he said. “I’m a builder and developer. Ain’t nobody going to buy property to build three or four houses” next to a firing range. Along with his cousin, County Commission candidate Don Ward, he was later admitted inside.

“This is a political move by the commissioners to help Charlie win the election,” Don Ward said. “That’s the only thing it helps.”

“How many resource officers could we put in the schools for $6 million,” Steve Rhodes asked, provoking one of the loudest cheers. “The issue on the front burner right now is children’s safety. How many school shootings are we going to witness and this clown wants to put $6 million on a training facility. When we already have one that could be utilized. Bullet-proof doors. Metal detectors, something, $6 million to protect our children, not for some guy that’s going to go shootin’ out in the woods.”

Four candidates for office showed up, capitalizing on a crowd of likely voters.

"That $6 million would have helped my school," said Norm Bossert. "I'm not only retired principle and candidate for state Senate as well, and it bothers me almost more than anything that this is their idea of transparency in government. The doors should be open to everybody. I think it's immoral and unjust to lock people out of a room where your voices have a right to be heard — a room that you paid for."

"Personally I don't think it's going to work for the sheriff," Bossert said. "These people are p---ed off. To me if the people didn't care, I'd say OK. They care, this is their neighborhood, where their homes are, where their kids play. I would bet that there are just as many Republicans here as Democrats. This is not a partisan issue. ... Don't we have sunshine laws here in North Carolina. Apparently, they're not as much use today."

Sam Edney, a candidate for the state House, called the shooting range an example of “government overreach” that has become common in Raleigh.

“How many times have they tried to locate this range?” Edney said. “Four,” people in the crowd said. “Well, you’re doing what Americans do. Your voices are going to be heard and that’s appropriate. I can tell you when I get sworn in my door will always be open.”

The Kury family from Spartanburg even showed up "because we spend all of our time and all of our extra dollars there," Mary Kury said. She and her husband, an arborist, and their five children, ages 4-10, visit Saluda as often as they can.

"We're always on the river, we're always hiking in the gamelands. The detriment to the natural resources is astonishing. Oftentimes when we stay, we stay in a cottage right up Macedonia Road."

"He's quit being a public servant and he's went to being a politician," Rhodes said. "And this right here proves it because he's shutting out the public's opinion. There's a facility right now that's not even being used to its capacity. Why are they pushing for this?"

Camp Wayfarer owner Nancy Wilson noted that the Saluda location is the fourth try at siting the training center.

"Does that not begin to tell the county commissioners something's out of whack?"

At noon, the property owners allowed in still had not emerged and all but two political candidates — Bossert and Edney — and about seven and landowners and the press waited outside a locked door. Everyone else had gone home.