Range Targeted For Demolition

WHEELING – Roughly two decades since police officers last took target practice there, the old shooting range on Wheeling Island is finally a target for demolition.

It’s been about 18 years since the shooting range was operational, according to Public Works Director Russell Jebbia. In the meantime, the building has been ravaged by flooding and weeds have almost completely obscured the structure in some spots.

“We’ve been trying to tear it down for a number of years. … It’s a long time coming,” Jebbia said.

The building last saw use during the tenure of former Mayor Jack Lipphardt.

Lead contamination caused by old bullets at the site makes the process more complicated than in a typical demolition, however. Extensive soil testing has been required to get to this point, Jebbia said, and further testing will be needed throughout the process – largely to determine whether the soil that’s removed will need to be disposed of at a restricted waste landfill.

The project will cost $75,000, and City Council is expected to approve a contract with Fairmont-based Reclaim Co. LLC for demolition and environmental cleanup at the site, located along the Ohio River underneath the Fort Henry Bridge. Only one other company, LEPI Enterprises Inc. of Zanesville, Ohio, submitted a bid, at $92,341.

Serious discussion of demolishing the facility dates back to 2007, when City Council set aside $20,000 for the project from its end-of-year cash carryover. The city also received a $5,000 state Brownfields Assistance grant toward the demolition.

Jebbia estimated the entire project, including remediation and demolition, should take about a month, and he expects the work to be done by early fall.

With no city-operated shooting range, the police department continues to take target practice at private shooting clubs in the area, limiting officers “in the scope and duration” of their training, according to Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger’s budget request submitted in January.

But Jebbia said it’s challenging to find a site within city limits that won’t pose a safety or disturbance issues for residents. He said it’s unlikely anything would ever be built on the remediated Wheeling Island property due to its presence in the floodplain.

The old North Park Landfill has been mentioned as a possibility, but it could be years before that site is suitable for development as it needs plenty of environmental cleanup itself.