GUSTINE - The city is exploring a public-private partnership with a local gun store owner interested in developing and operating a shooting range on city-owned property at the east end of Carnation Road.

The City Council recently authorized City Manager Doug Dunford to enter into discussions with Anthony Ventura, owner of Barnwood Outpost, to potentially develop a lease and operating agreement for the proposed facility. Those discussions are still in the preliminary stages, Dunford said recently.

According to a city staff report, if an agreement is reached Ventura would build the range to the city’s specifications and operate the facility.

In return, the city would receive either a percentage of revenue or flat lease fee, and its police officers would have have a local range on which to qualify.

The property was previously developed as a shooting range but is no longer functional, Dunford noted.

He said the facility is fenced and has electrical and water service.

Dunford said the new range, if developed, will be aligned so users are shooting to the south, away from Highway 140.

The council four years ago gave staff the green light to move forward with developing a new range at the site, Dunford noted, but that project never materialized.

“We don’t have the personnel, and now the financial backing, to move forward with that,” he explained. “(Ventura) came forward and asked if he could run it under our auspices.”

Gustine police officers and others from around the region currently qualify quarterly at a Livingston range, Dunford said. That arrangement requires officers to be out of the city for about three hours, and local officers must also work around the schedules of numerous other agencies who use the Livingston range.

“This is citizen driven, but the city will benefit from it,” he commented. “It will help us qualify our police officers and others in the area, and benefit the citizens by providing a shooting range that they can now use.”

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Oliveira said he was open to the concept, with the caveat that the city must retain some control over the facility use.

“We’ve tried to get it built,” he commented. “We would get so far, and then it would drop.”

The partnership proposal is in very preliminary stages, Dunford and Ventura said. Any proposed plans and operating agreement would be reviewed by the Planning Commission before coming to the City Council for a final decision.

Ventura said he believes there is substantial community interest in having a local range available for public use.

“I know the potential is there if we can work it all out,” he commented, noting that other than some small private ranges there are few facilities in the area.

He said he envisions creating a facility which would have both private and public components, with use restricted to members on some days but open to the general public on others.

The city staff report indicated that the facility could also be used for firearms safety and training courses.

“We’re a gun society,” Dunford remarked. “This town likes to shoot, and I think we need to give them the opportunity to do it safely.”