SOUTH BETHLEHEM — Bethlehem is working with the FBI to upgrade its shooting range into a $1.75 million training facility.
The Bethlehem Police Department has used the current shooting range on Old Quarry Road for more than 30 years. It was once a stone quarry previously owned by Callanan Industries before it donated the land to the town in December 2013.
According to a memorandum from Bethlehem Police Cmdr. Adam Hornick, the FBI will fund the construction of the new facility. It is to include a new building with classroom space and restroom amenities.
“These significant improvements will greatly improve the amount and type of training we are able to provide for our personnel, as well as provide us with access to the latest instruction on topics including de-escalation techniques and non-lethal restraint,” Hornick stated. “The need for greater training capabilities and more reality-based training is even more important with the 2020 Police Reforms.”
Plans for the facility also include a FireArms Training Simulator that trains officers in various scenarios that range from unwarranted use to unavoidable situations.
The FBI proposed the idea last year, said Town Supervisor David VanLuven. Board members passed a Memorandum of Understanding at last night’s meeting. It also granted an easement to National Grid to ultimately provide electricity to the site.
Town Board member Dan Coffey said the proposal would benefit town services while avoiding any tax burden to residents.
“If we did not agree to this MOU, it’s my understanding another town would have snatched up the opportunity very, very quickly,” he said, adding that the controversial use of lethal force by law enforcement also factored into the decision. He used George Floyd’s death in Minnesota and the shooting of Jacob Blake in Wisconsin as examples of the need for more training. “As it was explained by the FBI, decisions by the police often have to be made within seconds, and they have consequences for that officer for a lifetime.”
The former quarry has long been a desired site for a shooting range. Surrounded by 100-foot tall stone walls, it provides privacy and safety for discharging weapons. Callanan Industries donated the land after never having used it. According to a Spotlight News article published in 2013, it was founded in 1923 before Callanan bought it from a rival company. It remained dormant for nearly 70 years because of fears further mining would harm nearby water filtration systems.
According to the town, the MOU also covers costs for environmental impacts and lead decontamination.
The Bethlehem Police Department is one of a few agencies that possesses its own shooting range. The Albany County Sheriff’s Office, the State Police, the Albany division of the FBI and Secret Service have also used the facility. The town anticipates that neighboring communities will be allowed access to the site once it is complete.