Proposed shooting range in Cotter controversial

Arguments both for and against a proposed shooting range in the City of Cotter are heating up. The Cotter City Council will again hear a proposal to allow the Cotter School District to build a trap field on school property and the Cotter Shooting Sports Team to discharge firearms within the city limits. The meeting will be held at 6:00 Thursday evening at Cotter City Hall. Cotter Mayor Peggy Hammock says the Superintendent of Cotter Public Schools, Vanessa Thomas-Jones, has confirmed her intent to be on the agenda.

In a public input meeting November 13th, Hammock says opinions were offered from both sides. The Cotter School Board met following that meeting November 16th and voted to pursue the effort. An existing city ordinance would have to be amended to allow the team to shoot inside city limits.

KTLO, Classic Hits and The Boot news previously reported some of the concerns against the issue. Emails received to the newsroom at the time suggested some residents, who wished to remain anonymous, are concerned with how many shotgun blasts would be heard in any given round and the environmental impact of lead shot ammunition if it is used. An argument was also made the Cotter High School Trap Club already has a facility to shoot trap in Midway.

That full story can be found at http://www.ktlo.com/2017/11/15/cotter-school-board-to-weigh-public-input-regarding-shooting-range/ .

In a small flurry of emails recently sent to the KTLO news department, other Cotter citizens say they haven't been given the chance to speak in front of the Cotter School Board regarding their concerns.

In a response letter regarding those alleged missed opportunities, Thomas-Jones says one individual requested to be on the agenda after the deadline for the November 16th meeting. That deadline requires requests to be made at least 10 days prior to a school board meeting.

A request from Cotter residents Mike and Sandy Isom to be put on the December 19th school board agenda was also denied by Thomas-Jones. In a letter to the Isoms she writes the board had already made their decision, the issue was no longer a board action item and there would be no further discussion. She says proper procedures have been followed in regard to meeting agendas and the Cotter School District has been transparent throughout the entire process.

In a response letter, the Isoms argued the school district had not been transparent and the shooting range was not specified on any school board meeting agenda. They say they believe Thomas-Jones is trying to rush the trap shoot range proposal through the school board and Cotter City Council to an immediate conclusion to avoid "any strenuous opposition."

The Isoms also assert, along with other residents emailing the KTLO newsroom, the trap shoot facility could decrease property values.

One of the biggest concerns, consistent with all the emails received, is the affect of lead shot and it's impact on the environment. The emails say lead pellets could potentially contaminate the White River and protected wildlife.

Cotter Mayor Peggy Hammock says Thomas-Jones will have to provide the city with a proper ordinance for Thursday night's meeting to present to the council for consideration. If the council decides they want to move forward with the ordinance it would be placed on a first reading. If they choose not to proceed it will be tabled for further discussion. The process of any ordinance is to be read three times at each monthly city council meeting. After a third reading the council will vote.

Hammock says those wanting to be put on the agenda must make their request in a timely manner. Otherwise, those wishing to be heard during a meeting of the Cotter City Council may also sign in for allotted times to present on the floor.

Hammock says she's been asked if she is taking a particular stance on the issue. She says she's heard from various Cotter residents on each side of the issue and her primary duty is to pass those concerns along to the city council so they can make an informed decision.

She says the shooting range can affect a lot of people in a lot of areas and she will report to the city council both sides of the argument regardless of what her stance might be.

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