TOP Trails shelves shooting complex; CMP plans one of its own nearby
by Jim Smothers
The TOP Trails board of directors decided to put their plans for a multimillion dollar shooting complex on the shelf after hearing directly from Civilian Marksmanship Program representatives about their similar plans.

At one time the two entities were in talks about developing the CMP range on TOP Trails property, but the CMP board decided to build on property it owned.

CMP’s deputy chief operating officer Mark Johnson and business development officer Jim Townsend were on hand to explain what they intend to develop on the 500 acre tract the CMP purchased on Turner’s Mill Road, about a mile from the site where TOP Trails had planned to develop the Alabama Shooting Complex.

Johnson said the complex would include a 50-station 600 yard range, a 100-yard sighting range, handgun ranges and skeet and sporting clay ranges. Electronic sights will be standard on the target ranges, and they plan to open parts of the range to the public five or six days per week.

He said all users would have to complete a safety course, and a range officer would be on duty whenever anyone is shooting. Fees haven’t been set, but were expected to be no more than $5 to $10 per day.

Johnson said his board decided to proceed with full development, rather than a phased approach, and said the complex should be completed by the end of 2014.

Board chairman Tommy Spears asked whether CMP planned to build a 1,000 yard shooting range, something which had been part of TOP Trails’ plan. Johnson said that is not in their plan, and would be a stretch for the site they have under development.

A shooting complex on TOP Trails property is part of the park’s long term Program of Utilization, but this year’s timeline has no mention of breaking ground on that part of the park’s development.

Board member Joey Cooper, who has worked closely with volunteer Dennis Cotton in developing plans for ASC, said he supported CMP’s plan. He also offered a motion to establish a separate account for funds for TOP Trails’ shooting complex so that seed money would be available in the future if the board decides to move forward with its own shooting range. The motion carried. The board may at some point want to proceed on a smaller scale.

Spears said the board was excited about CMP’s plans, and as a shooting hobbyist, he is much more excited about it.

Lincoln Mayor Bud Kitchin said it’s a different kind of entertainment than TOP Trails, and their presence close to each other should enhance the appeal for both. Talladega Mayor Larry Barton said he was pleased to note that both Johnson and Townsend are from Talladega.

The board decided to hire Mic Barnett as park manager as a leased associate through SK Services, and at the same time to also hire Richard Naff as a leased associate. Naff has been working as the board’s bookkeeper on a contract basis.

Professional Services Group liaison Leah Reddick gave updates on several issues. She said a final punchlist for the environmental center had been given to the building contractor after a March 7 inspection. Bids are to be opened March 20 on roadwork and campgrounds. Three telephone lines and Internet service are to be up and running in three weeks. Sewer connections should be complete this week. A portable sign marking the park entrance was in use over the weekend, but is supposed to be moved during the week until the Alabama Department of Transportation approves a permanent sign. Reddick will add security systems to requests for bids on security systems.

Reddick also presented statements on avoiding conflicts of interest, real or apparent, and bid procedures provided by ADECA. Gary Steed asked for time to read the documents before voting to approve them for addition to the board’s management policies. The board approved a $500 minimum for requiring bids; purchases below that amount will not require bidding.

The board agreed to try the PSG’s proposal for a management structure on a trial basis for 90 days. The structure has the PSG over the operation and development of the park, answerable to the board.

The board also approved the PSG’s proposed budget for 2013.

The park took in $3,080 in fees in February and $73,137 from timber sales. Expenses totaled $111,273, $48,127 of which was for the environmental center. Reddick said there has been a slowdown in getting grant reimbursements for expenses.

Board member Mack Ferguson suggested the board send a letter of appreciation to former board member Ray Miller for his service on the board, and to offer him and his immediate family permanent free admission to the park. Miller resigned from the board last week, citing personal reasons.

Ferguson also noted that terms for three more board members will expire by September, and suggested that the Talladega and Lincoln city councils decide before then who they want to serve on the board. The idea is for the incoming members to be able to attend as many board meetings as possible to get up to speed on issues facing the board before they are asked to make decisions about policies and operations.

In the public comments portion of the meeting, Benny Green asked for a reponse to his written request at the last meeting for more oversight of the amount of timber being removed from the park.

Steed explained the systems in use now. Each driver has a logbook, park employees have the ability to keep a record of trucks entering and leaving the property, and each truck is weighed at its destination before and after unloading to determine the amount of timber sold, with records kept. Every record has to be submitted before the timber is paid for, and an independent forester reviews the records for the board and is paid a percentage of the proceeds.

Steed said the verification system will be more comprehensive when a security camera is installed at the park gate.

He added that about 500-600 acres remain to be thinned on the 2,800 acre park.

The next board meeting is set for Tuesday, April 2, at Talladega City Hall at 7:30 a.m.

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© 2013