By Jonathan Gallardo
Gillette News Record
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
GILLETTE — The state wants to hear from communities about why they should be the ones to host a proposed shooting complex. It also wants to hear how those communities think the facility should be managed.
The State Shooting Complex Oversight Task Force met in Cody Friday morning to go over the timeline of the selection process, which will take place in 2024.
“We want the local groups to have skin in the game,” said Rep. Art Washut, R-Casper, who co-chairs the task force with Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs.
Hicks said there are “no preconceived notions” of how this facility would be run or what state agencies would be involved. Rather than the state telling communities what it wants, Hicks said the task force wants to hear from communities about what they believe is the best way to run the facility.
“What will you as a local entity bring as part of that governance structure?” Hicks asked. “What works best for Campbell County may not be the best thing for Cody.”
The governance structure is vital, he added. The state could build the “best range in the world,” Hicks said, but that isn’t going to matter if it’s managed poorly.
The task force is currently accepting letters of interest from communities. In these letters of interest, the state wants communities to include information on six topics, including land, access, utilities, dining and lodging, economic development and any other information they think may be relevant.
The task force has suggested a minimum amount of 800 acres for a shooting complex site, and there will be a preference given to sites that have 2,500 acres or more.
Access to water and sewer, electricity, natural gas and high speed internet are important, as are the distance and travel time to the nearest highway and airport. The task force also wants to know the possibility of local government staff or volunteers to help staff the complex, particularly during competitions.
Letters of interest will be accepted through March 1, 2024.
Friday, the task force came up with a tentative timeline of how they want the process to move forward.
Once the letters of interest have all been submitted, the task force will spend March developing the request for proposal process, and accept proposals from April through June. This will give communities three months to put together their proposals.
The task force will review the proposals and from there decide which ones they want to hear oral presentations from.
These presentations would take place in late July, and the task force will do site visits in August.
The task force will select a site in September, and by Oct. 1, it will submit a report to the Joint Appropriations Committee.
James Klessens, president of Forward Cody, an economic development organization, said the facility shouldn’t just be fully state-owned and operated.
“One of the things I want to remind you is when you have local investment, you have local ownership,” he said. “You’re going to have a higher propensity for success because we’re invested. If it happens just for you and not because of you, it changes the dynamic of things.”
Hicks said he doesn’t expect the facility to be a big moneymaker for the government, and that he hopes it will pay for itself with the revenue that it generates. The bigger benefit will be to the community that hosts the complex, which could be “an incubator” for all types of economic development, Hicks said.
“We want to use this to attract not only just shooters but manufacturers and retailers,” he said.