Capital Punishment

Citing a flood of red ink, officials drew a bead on Dade's only public gun range. Now shooting enthusiasts hope to overturn the death sentence.

Souto and fellow commissioner Miriam Alonso prevailed upon parks director Guillermo Cutie and County Manager Armando Vidal to reconsider. At a meeting in Souto's office in late May, Cutie appointed a task force of gun club and parks department representatives to devise a plan to save the range. Since then the task force, which has been meeting weekly, has requested that the county conduct an audit of the range's revenues and deposits. The results are expected later this week. Task force members have also been consulting with their respective gun clubs about the most obvious change they'd have to make in order to keep the range open -- raising fees -- and they're pursuing other possible moneymaking avenues that hadn't been considered before, such as corporate sponsorships and advertising. Selling food, more ammo, and accessories on-site might raise revenue as well, as would a firearm rental concession. With the right business practices, task force members are certain, Trail Glades could join other public and private ranges across the nation that operate in the black.

"Profitability is a function of management," asserts Richard Patterson, director of facility development for the nonprofit National Shooting Sports Foundation in Newtown, Connecticut. "It's the same in any industry. There's tremendous potential in the shooting range industry."

Of course, there's still that $600,000 lead mess. But after five years of testing by the environmental engineering firm Metcalf & Eddy -- at a cost to the county of tens of thousands of dollars -- the degree of contamination remains unclear. Dade's Department of Environment Resources Management (DERM), which ordered the assessments, has not come to any decision about what ought to be done. According to Doug Yoder of DERM, neither surface nor ground water appears to be contaminated, and while the soil, not surprisingly, shows high levels of lead, it might not pose enough of a hazard to animals or humans to warrant immediate cleanup.

"The lead is not an issue," says the coordinating council's James Colson, who is also a member of the task force. "Mr. Cutie said the lead is not so important. Once we break even or make a profit, then we'll look into the lead."

If it gets to that point, they may like what they see. New lead-recycling technologies, although expensive to install, usually allow ranges to recoup costs. And if a range is well-run it can actually make money by selling the recovered lead.

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