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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Small arms range developed by Spokane County, Fairchild Air Force Base expected to cost $40M

Spokane County is planning to build the Spokane Regional Indoor Small Arms Range, a firing range and law enforcement training center, at 13033 W. Medical Lake Road on the West Plains. (Greg Mason / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane County is planning to build the Spokane Regional Indoor Small Arms Range, a firing range and law enforcement training center, at 13033 W. Medical Lake Road on the West Plains. (Greg Mason / The Spokesman-Review)

At least $40 million.

That’s the estimated cost of the Spokane Regional Indoor Small Arms Range that’s taking shape on the West Plains.

Hailed as the product of a landmark public-to-public partnership between Spokane County and Fairchild Air Force Base, the range will be the first of its kind used primarily to train airmen and deputies, county officials have touted. The project site is 13033 W. Medical Lake Road, a vacant plot next to StoneFox Kennels.

The public comment period for the project’s State Environmental Protection Agency review is open until 4 p.m. Monday, with construction expected to take 18 months. County officials hope to be operational by October 2023.

The building is designed with two connected parts, said Todd Mielke, chief administrative officer for the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office. One part is the small arms range, comprised of 21 50-meter lanes with accompanying classrooms, an on-site armory, locker rooms and offices.

The other will be what’s been described as a regional law enforcement training facility. Overseen by the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and owned as a county asset, the training facility will have classrooms, offices, a fuel depot, indoor and outdoor spaces for K-9 training, a rappel tower and a “shoot house” firearms simulation area.

Mielke said he anticipates the county would pay for the facility through two separate bonds – one for each side of the building.

The Air Force partnership will come into play with the range side.

The county and Fairchild have an agreement in place for the Air Force to cover 77% of capital costs and 80% of operating costs, including principal and interest. Mielke said this will take place over the length of a 10-year lease agreement.

“They’re participating on the (range construction) costs, and then there’s another $2.8 million in design and architecture for the entire facility. They’re paying for a portion of that as well,” he said. “They’re paying about $17.9 million toward the project.”

The lease agreement won’t kick in until Fairchild occupies the space. Through this arrangement, the federal government will not have any ownership of the facility, Mielke said.

“They are paying an annual lease fee,” he said, “And that lease fee, the county can contribute that to the cost of the debt.”

A Fairchild spokesperson declined to comment for this story.

Mielke and Bruce Russell, design and construction manager for the Spokane County Facilities Department, offered a breakdown of the estimated expenses during a Jan. 18 meeting with Spokane County Commissioners.

In the bids the county received from three separate firms for the project, construction costs all came in around $20 million for the range portion, not including sales tax. The training facility construction costs ranged from around $7.8 million to $11 million, also not including sales tax, depending on the bidder.

Of the remaining overall project cost, $2.5 million are attributed to provisions for an Emergency Vehicle Operations Training Course. Mielke said the biggest piece of that cost is land acquisition.

“You want it relatively close to the facility,” he said. “One of the closest parcels to the facility is zoned for mining, so not only do you have to buy the land, you have to buy mineral rights as well.”

Beyond that, the remaining estimated expenses were broken out by Mielke and Russell : approximately $3.3 million for design-related services, $750,000 for furnishings, $2.9 million for other construction-related costs and $3.3 million for sales tax.

Mielke said the county anticipates using real estate excise tax revenues to “more than cover” the debt service payments for bonding on the training facility side of the costs.

According to environmental review documents, the Sheriff’s Office will staff the facility with approximately 15 employees, while Fairchild will have approximately six. Additional people will be there as training takes place, with the highest anticipated occupancy expected at 225 people, according to the environmental documents prepared by the county.

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