DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - The Dubuque County Drug Task Force is moving forward with a plan to acquire land for a new firing range.
However, it will be quite a while before bullets start flying.
"It's just really in the starting phases," said Daryl Klein, chairman of the Dubuque County Board of Supervisors.
Sheriff Don Vrotsos said county law enforcement agencies are relegated to a rock quarry for target practice. While the location has served officers for years, he said recent housing developments in the area have convinced officials that a new home for the range would be preferable.
"There is concern with the noise and stuff like that," Vrotsos said. "We're trying to be good neighbors and we're trying to find another location."
On Monday, the supervisors approved a memorandum of understanding authorizing ongoing negotiations to acquire a 150-acre property in rural Epworth. Task force members, made up of representatives from the Dubuque County Sheriff's Department, the Dubuque Police Department and the county attorney's office, believe the property would be an ideal site for the firing range.
"The ultimate goal is to establish a range for law enforcement use, both for the Dubuque County sheriff's office, the city of Dubuque Police Department, (and) all the small agencies within Dubuque County," Vrotsos said.
An attempt to purchase a different property for the range failed last year when the task force was outbid, according to County Attorney Ralph Potter. But he said the land now under consideration could prove to be a better fit.
"That's one of the complaints we had last year," Potter said. "There was a lot of tillable land and they didn't want to take that out of usage."
The Epworth property contains a bluff, which Potter described as "natural protection" for the range, and wooded areas that are not considered tillable, meaning a minimal amount of crop-growing land would be taken out of use.
A portion of the property, including land near the Heritage Trail, is expected to be turned over to the Dubuque County Conservation Board for use as a recreation area. The conservation board would then reimburse the task force for the fair market value of the property.
"It's a win-win, both for law enforcement and the county conservation board if we can work all the details," Vrotsos said.
Vrotsos said there is not yet a time line for the project, but he hopes to move forward as soon as possible.