New range for Pasco deputies after environmental standoff at college

- After a standoff between the Pasco County sheriff's office and officials at Pasco-Hernando State College, county commissioners gave initial approval for a new shooting range for sheriff's deputies in Hudson.

"When our citizens are in need of help, or if a deputy or someone's life is in danger, we want to make sure that they are the most qualified to be out there and that they have the best training possible," said Sheriff Chris Nocco.

To the sheriff, that means training with the full metal jacket rounds that are loaded into their weapons when they're on the job.

But at the county's gun range at Pasco-Hernando State College in Dade City, the school requires frangible, or non-lead rounds only.

"From a sports analogy, you don't have someone play a sport and practice with different equipment," said Nocco.

The sheriff believes the answer is across the county from Dade City, in Hudson.

The new range will be near the intersection of Softwind and Yeremiah.

Improvements on the land, which is being leased from the county's utilities department, could cost $250,000, according to the sheriff's office.

To the chagrin of State Sen. Wilton Simpson (R-Pasco), the state paid $1 million just a few years ago to beef up the range at the college.

"It's very disappointing that now that we have developed that facility that the sheriff can't use it because the college says it can't use certain types of ammunition," said Simpson.

Deputies routinely travel out of the county to train, while the college's range has only been used by cadets using non-lead rounds.

The sheriff says a larger range will also give deputies the added benefit of more time with the gun.

"There are too many deputies and too many people that are recruits," said Nocco. "There are (now) too many spots to fill."

The college defends itself, telling us by phone that the environmental concerns center on contaminated soil.

They say lead fragments could wind up in the soil and groundwater, and that the college would be liable for any damage to the environment or sickness to people.

Construction on the new range could begin in the next several weeks, while final approval is still several months away.

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