While Mt. Lebanon’s new firing range has been in place for several months, its practical usage continues to be delayed.
The original architectural specifications for some of the building’s components appear to have been inadequate, according to information presented at Mt. Lebanon Commission’s Jan. 28 discussion session.
Bruce Pollock of RSSC Architecture, who has been working on the project since August, attended to provide an overview of what needs to be accomplished in order to provide sufficient noise reduction and interior ventilation for the range, which was built primarily for police training. The Mt. Lebanon High School rifle team also plans to use the facility.
Pollock said two acoustic tests have been taken, in August and again Jan. 6.
“When we first test-fired in the range, there was concern that there was too much noise outside the building,” he told commissioners. “And so we’ve been working to identify exactly what the issue is and how to address it since that point.”
The building is part of the expansion of the municipal public works facility, across the street from Cedar Boulevard residences. Also in close proximity are homes on Folkestone Drive.
Modifications are necessary to attempt “to trap the sound within the range and prevent it from disturbing the neighbors,” according to Pollock. One proposal is to build a “mechanical penthouse” enclosure on the roof to enclose the exhaust and supply fan units, which provide air outtake and intake for proper ventilation.
An alternative, he said, would be to design heavier ductwork for the air’s return path.
Improved sound mitigation also is needed for the interior, a situation that Pollock attributed to the specifications.
“There was a minimal amount of sound-absorbing material specified to go inside the range, and actually a portion of that was deleted from the contract because it was realized at that point that it wasn’t sufficient and there was going to have to be more noise-reducing material put in,” he said.
“What that material does is it prevents the sound from bouncing around within the range. So it reduces the noise. It improves the sound clarity, the ability of the officers firing to hear the range officer’s commands.”
Regarding the effectiveness of ventilation, Pollock said measurements determined the amount of carbon monoxide coming back into the building is about 39 parts per million, below the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s threshold of 50 ppm. But there still is room for improvement by introducing more outside air to the range.
“If there’s an issue, we still have some room to adjust that without making a major change to the system,” Pollock said.
Presence of lead also represents a concern.
“The lead dust is being addressed by HEPA filters in the return air path,” Pollock said, referring to a high-efficiency particulate air system that “removes 99.97% of the particles in the air.”
His firm looks to bear the bulk of the expense for the additional work.
“We have initiated a claim with our professional liability carrier,” Pollock said.
As for how much the modifications may cost, Pollock said a final design is in the works, a process that could take “probably at least eight weeks.”
“So at this time, I can’t give you a specific idea of cost, other than to assure you that my insurance company will work with the municipality to come to an equitable arrangement,” he said.
Municipal manager Keith McGill asked how the additional work would affect warranties associated with the range.
“Typically, you use a warranty period to identify whether there are any deficiencies, issues with equipment installed,” he said. “If it starts from date of install, which was April, and we’re not inside that building until June, we’ve lost 14 months, 15 months of warranty time.”
Pollock could provide no exact details.
“But as far as my opinion with the contractors, starting the warranty period later is not fair to the contractors who put the equipment in. They’re not the reason the township hasn’t been able to use it,” he said. “That’s something we can definitely address as we move forward.”
In 2017, the municipality contracted with RSSC Architecture and Gateway Engineers to provide design services for the multimillion-dollar public works facility project. The firing range, which was included in the scope, represented the first one RSSC had designed, according to Pollock.
With regard to an estimate that it may take another six months for the range to become operational, he said:
“That’s probably not unreasonable.”