Saying it was a mistake to have Southampton Village police use a firing range a quarter-mile from the Tuckahoe School while it was in session, Mayor Mark Epley has issued an executive order that his small department can use the range only when class is not in session.
"They have 180 days of school. We can train on the other 185 days," he said.
The issue came to light when six officers went to use the range a week after the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, and some parents complained to the school district about the noise of gunfire. The Tuckahoe School has about 350 students in pre-K to eighth grade.
Epley said the village has been using the outdoor range for decades, and that police shoot against targets backed up by an earthen berm. They fire facing north, while the school on Magee Street is to the south of the range.
Still, Epley said, the noise can be heard at the school. "I live a mile away, and I hear it," he said. He said that he understands why people would be sensitive to the sound of gunfire after the recent deaths in Connecticut.
The range was built on wooded property owned by Southampton Town, and Epley said his department is the only one that uses it.
Susan Van Olst, a member of Southampton Town's Southampton/Shinnecock Hills/Tuckahoe Citizen Advisory Committee, lives about a mile from the school and says that the range has never posed a problem before the recent events.
"I've lived in this house for 26 years . . . I'm pretty versed on what goes on here, and I never heard anyone mention it's a problem."
One reason could be that the range cannot be seen from the school or from the street. "It's quite far from the intersection and the school. It's pretty invisible," Van Olst said.
School officials have made no formal complaint to the village. Village police could not be reached Friday for comment.