County approves $25,000 in matching funds for 4H shooting range

Published 6:41 pm Wednesday, March 20, 2019

On Tuesday, the Troup County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved a request to provide up to $25,000 in matching funding for a permanent practice range for Troup County 4H’s Project SAFE rifle program.

The decision was met with excitement from three rows of students, parents and volunteers who attended the weekday morning meeting to show their support for the program, which currently relies on temporary practice locations. Troup County 4H Extension Agent Melanie Dabb explained to the board of commissioners on Tuesday that the permanent location will be important to the future growth and development of the program.

“To be competitive, they really need to be practicing every week, and part of why they are not able to do that is our lack of a permanent range, the setup time and the fact that our current facility is temporary,” Dabb said. “So, what we are asking for is $25,000 from Troup County to match the $25,000 already promised from the Callaway Foundation to set up a practice range facility that our students can be proud of, and they can feel like it is a home base where they can master their craft.”

The team is currently using a temporary space on the Pineland Sheriffs’ Youth Home property, which costs $1,000 a day and utilizes the moveable equipment. The permanent range would be located near the new UGA extension office, which is to be built using SPLOST funds, but did not include a range in the original plan. A permanent range would also make it possible to host regional matches and fun shoots, according to Dabb. She said matches could be used as fundraisers to provide funds to maintain the range long-term and encourage people to visit and spend money in Troup County.

Troup County 4H also secured a donation for one of the essential parts of the project before bringing the request before the Board of Commissioners and created a plan that will make use of one of 4H’s core values.

“In keeping with 4H trying to teach life skills, most of the work and the labor put into this will be our 4H students and our 4H volunteers,” Dabb said. “The value of the land clearing from the local businesses and our volunteers is $6,800, so that is what we have already secured.”

Before the vote, County Manager Eric Mosley said that the money for the permanent range could come from unused funds that had been allocated in the county budget for an unfilled position at the extension office.

“With the retirement of Brian Maddy, our previous extension agent, we do have funding through salary savings to transfer over to a capital expense that can be used to offset the cost of this shooting range as far as our match,” Mosley said.

Mosley said that the county is entering the final stages of the interview process to find Maddy’s successor.

With the funds available, the county listened to a strong argument for the impact of the program on local students and what kind of impact a permanent range would have on those students.

“4H is a youth program that is offered through our UGA extension services, and Project SAFE is one of those programs,” Dabb said. “It stands for Shooting Awareness Fun and Education. The goals of project SAFE are to teach life skills. They include disciplines in BB, rifle, archery and shotgun. It is for youth from fourth through twelfth grade.”

Dabb said that the permanent range would allow for longer practice times, more flexible practice times, a wider variety of shooting styles and ultimately encourage more students to join the program. According to Dabb, the program currently has participants from seventh through twelfth grades, and it is open to all students in Troup County. Students provide their own firearm and ammunition and must complete the Georgia Hunter’s Education Course.

Participants pay dues of $50 per member to offset the cost of district and state matches and t-shirts. They also purchase “clay cards” to offset the cost of the targets. Team members purchased $350 in clay cards in 2018, and the team fundraises by selling advertising space on team shirts, which brought in $250 in 2018. The team also seeks donations from local businesses.

“It helps our youth develop a sense of belonging,” Dabb said. “They learn teamwork. They learn sportsmanship. They learn ethical behavior. They practice safety and the responsible use of firearms. It helps them increase their concentration. They practice sound decision making.”

Dabbs outlined some of the history of Troup County 4H’s rifle program, which stretches back for decades.

“Lt. Col. [James] Boddie, when he retired from the Air Force in 1963, he volunteered with our Troup County 4H rifle program, and through that service he coached over three dozen state champions,” Dabb said. “In 1990, they actually named the shooting range at Rock Eagle 4H Center after him, because of all the work that he had put in.”

Boddie was honored for his contributions to the county and 4H during the Sweetland of Liberty Parade in July 1991, and the program has continued to boast positive results in tournaments.

“In 2016, we had one of our local shooters, Dillon Fryer, place third in the state 4H shotgun match and he posted a perfect 25,” Dabbs said. “This past weekend, Zane Prickett, one of our current shotgun team members, placed first place in the junior division at our state sporting clays invitational. So, we have some awesome participants, some awesome volunteers, and we want that success to continue. We want to be able to move that forward and increase this.”

Other items covered during the Troup County Board of Commissioners meeting included:

  • The board of commissioners approved a request to create a job posting for a vacant juvenile probation officer position.
  • The board of commissioners unanimously approved a request to lift the hiring freeze to hire up to six seasonal parks maintenance workers.
  • The Troup County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved requests to allow the mental health court and accountability court to submit grant applications.
  • The board of commissioners unanimously approved the Troup County Hazard Mitigation Plan update.
  • The board of commissioners unanimously approved a resolution to request sales tax information from the state. The request, if granted, would allow a county representative to view a list of businesses paying sales tax in the county, which could be used to verify SPLOST funds from businesses are being distributed to the correct county and could be compared to a list of companies with business licenses in the county.
  • The board of commissioners unanimously approved a proposal to designate a portion of the county’s fund balance as “committed,” meaning that it would be used for capital projects such as roads, buildings or other purchases expected to last for a number of years.
  • Finally, the board of commissioners held public hearings on an application to de-annex 11.42 acres of property on Upper Big Springs Road from the City of LaGrange to Troup County and for a new owner at Highland Marina to receive an updated Entertainment II Establishment License. No one spoke at either public hearing.

The Troup County Board of Commissioners will meet again on March 28 at 9 a.m. at 100 Ridley Avenue.