Range, which opened last fall, needs more revenue to cover costs

PENDER COUNTY -- Since opening last fall, the Holly Shelter Game Lands shooting range has generated $20,544 in income from fees paid by shooters to use the facility.

But the Pender County range cost $21,054 to operate during the same time frame.

Faced with those unenviable economic numbers, it's likely fees to use the range could be going up sooner rather than later.

Currently, enthusiasts pay a $5 daily fee to use all that the facility has to offer, including rifle and pistol ranges and archery. That could soon go to about $8, county Planning Director Kyle Breuer said last week, which his staff believes will be the break-even point that also allows for funds to be set aside for future improvements, services and amenities.

Pender County Commissioner David Piepmeyer said it's important that no tax dollars go to subsidize the range. Chairman George Brown agreed, noting that using public money for a facility that a majority of the public doesn’t use could stir controversy he’d rather see remain dormant.

Costs could also rise a bit in conjunction with higher fees to cover them. Breuer told the commissioners last week that he likely will be recommending that the county hire a full-time safety officer and a part-time office assistant starting in the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1.

“We think that it would be beneficial to the county as well as to the experience to be able to have someone out there full time that folks can call, schedule things, and do marketing for the range,” Breuer said. “Of course, we have to do the financials and make sure that makes sense.”

Currently, Breuer and the county parks and recreation department oversee a group of nine rotating, part-time rangers -- with three on site during operating hours. Breuer would also like to grow that pool to make scheduling easier.

The facility was built and is owned by the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission and is operated under an agreement with Pender County, which provides safety rangers and light maintenance to the site.

“The usage is high,” Breuer said. "We talked to the state, and they were saying that our usage is probably one of the tops in the state for shooting ranges.”

Contact the Metro desk at 910-343-2384 or Breakingnews@StarNewsOnline.com.

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