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Pomona to make noise reducing improvement at firing range

POMONA >> Bill Harford is an optimistic man who thinks the employees, customers and animals of the Inland Valley Humane Society are close to having a more peaceful environment in which to conduct business — or in the case of the animals, just take a nap.

For close to three years, Harford, president and chief executive officer of the Inland Valley Humane Society and SPCA, has been working with the city to reduce the noise levels coming from the Pomona Police Department’s outdoor shooting range, located on a hillside directly behind the animal shelter on Humane Way and Mission Boulevard.

“We’re almost to the end of what has been a marathon,” Harford said Friday.

Last week, the Pomona City Council approved the selection of Troy Acoustics, Inc. to develop a means of quieting the range to outside ears. The Georgia-based company specializes in “acoustical design work” for shooting ranges, according company’s proposal.

“The project is designed to reduce the noise,” Pomona Police Chief Paul Capraro promised.

The approval clears the way for city administrators to negotiate a contract with the company that is expected to go before the City Council at its March 21 meeting, according to a city staff report.

Troy’s proposal calls for adding steel roofs to the 25- and 50-yard firing ranges, according to a city staff report. Acoustic energy-absorbing materials will be suspended from the roofs, and acoustical curtains will hang from the sides. A wall will be built behind the existing shooting line.

The approach will be different for the facility’s 100-yard range, which is used mostly for rifle training.

“The primary sound mitigation for the rifle range will be a concrete shed structure with two 22-foot-long stalls, covered in acoustical absorbing panels,” the staff report says.

The project is expected to cost $1.6 million.

Altogether, the improvements will cut down on the noise levels heard in the parking lot of the Humane Society and surrounding neighborhoods, Capraro said.

The Inland Valley Humane Society has been in Pomona since 1950 and on Humane Way for close to 17 years. In 2013, noise from the shooting range reached a level that became too much for Humane Society personnel and the animals housed at the facility.

The Humane Society filed a lawsuit in 2014 against the city, hoping the courts would impose conditions to address the sound issue.

Specifically, the nonprofit asked the court to bar the city from allowing other agencies to use the range; for the city to limit the number of days the range can be used per month; limit the type of weapons that can be used; and limit the range-goers from crossing the Humane Society property to get to the range.

After employing a mediator, the city and nonprofit reached some agreements, and the two sides will at some point work out a settlement agreement, Harford said.

From the city’s perspective, dealing with the sound of gunfire is a step in getting to that agreement.

“The mitigation of noise emanating from the firing range by mitigation measures such as discussed here is a primary part of resolving the lawsuit,” according to the staff report.

Although the use of the range has been scaled back, sound continues to pose a problem, Harford said.

“We still have people who arrive and get out of their vehicles and take cover,” he said.

Harford can gauge what his day at work will be like based on whether the gate leading to the range is open or closed.

“When I come to work at 6 o’clock in the morning, and I see the gate open, I’m not a happy guy,” Harford said. “Our animals and our clients are not going to be happy either.”

At at time when law enforcement agencies, such as Chino police, train in enclosed ranges, Pomona continues to use an open-air facility, Harford said.

Having a fully enclosed range is not an option for Pomona because such structures “are very cost-prohibitive,” Capraro said.

The improvements should be in place by the end of the year, Capraro added. Completing the projects is more than just about noise.

“It’s good for us to be … good neighbors,” he said.

The improvements will also mean police officers can “train without worrying and without disrupting the neighbors,” he said.

Harford said he and others have been patient and applauds the efforts of the city, police and range master in trying to address the situation. He added the city has been keeping him informed about the steps taken to create a more quiet environment and is hopeful the contractor will be able to make an impact.

“They can bring noise levels to an acceptable level,” he said. “We’re looking forward to a quieter neighborhood soon.”