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SPRINGFIELD — City Councilor Jesse Lederman has asked the Law Department for a legal opinion on how the city finalized a 20-year lease for a new police shooting range without council approval.
In a prepared statement Monday, Lederman said the lease, signed by several city officials including Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, commits the city to about $16 million in payments over 20 years — roughly $800,000 a year.
“The public deserves answers,” Lederman said.
Members of the Sarno administration, including officials in the procurement and finance departments, have defended the lease and said the process followed all legal requirements. Many councilors agreed that a new shooting range was needed, but were critical of the cost of the new site planned at 299 Page Blvd. in East Springfield.
Lederman said the lease was never submitted for council approval and the funding was not approved by the council.
“A commitment in excess of $16 million, one that commits an entire generation to a lease agreement such as this, should be subject to public and legislative scrutiny, not entered into quietly with no public input,” Lederman said.
The site, formerly the Smith & Wesson shooting range, was sold in 2019 to the Goodman family, owners of the nearby Northstar Pulp & Paper Co.
Under state law designated for a “unique property,” the city had to disclose the shooting range plans on the state’s Central Registry, but did not have to seek competitive bids, nor council approval of the lease, according to city procurement and finance officials.
The city plans to use the shooting range for the Police Department effective Nov. 1, to replace the current range in the basement of the police headquarters on Pearl Street. Police and other city officials say the current range is in poor condition and unhealthy for officers due to gun discharges and other issues.
The new site will cost the city approximately $800,000 a year, providing a “state-of-the-art” site for training that can also be rented by the city to other police departments, officials said.
Lederman said all councilors want city police officers to have the best training possible.
But, he believes the language for unique properties does not exclude council approval.
“We also have an ethical responsibility to transparency in the city’s actions and finances, and a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the residents and tax-payers of Springfield see their funds expended in the most efficient way possible with the most community benefit,” Lederman said. “The process that has taken place so far has not allowed for due diligence on either of those responsibilities by the City Council, and the answers provided on the finances of this project have been insufficient.”