Firing range

Harry Funk/The Almanac

Mt. Lebanon’s firing range effectively has sat idle since 2019.

Mt. Lebanon’s not-so-new firing range finally could be ready for use by January.

The building, located at the lower end of the municipal public works facility, was constructed in 2019, but noise considerations have prevented the range from opening until further sound-reduction measures are taken.

If Mt. Lebanon Commission awards the applicable contracts as expected July 27, completion is projected for six months afterward, according to municipal engineer Dan Deiseroth.

During the commission’s most recent discussion session, Deiseroth provided details about plans to mitigate noise outside the range so as to minimize the impact on nearby residential neighborhoods.

“Essentially, what the remediation is coming down to is the construction of what I’ll call a ‘penthouse’ around a major portion of the mechanical equipment, with some installation of silencers,” he said. “The sound within the building is escaping through the mechanical equipment.”

The project, which will involve work on the roof of the one-story building, requires three prime contractors, according to state law. The apparent low bidders are TBI Contracting Inc. of Elizabeth Township, general construction, $488,000; Controlled Climate Systems Inc. of Canonsburg, mechanical construction, $52,300; and McCurley Houston Electric of New Castle, electrical construction, $20,900.

The total is $561,200, compared with an estimate 11 months ago of $334,800 by RSSC Architecture, the Pine Township firm serving as project architect for the rifle range. RSSC submitted a written explanation to the municipality regarding the cost disparity.

“Since we prepared our estimate in August 2020, the bidding environment has changed significantly. We have seen a significant increase in the number of projects being bid and a reduction in the number of bidders interested in each project. We had two bidders that we normally see on this type of project decline to bid due to their current and projected workload. There have also been significant material price increases and shortages,” the written explanation said.

“Based on the number and the tight grouping of the bids received, it is our opinion that the bid price accurately reflects the current market conditions.”

RSSC anticipates covering 34% of the cost, or $190,808, under the terms of a proposed settlement resulting from the discovery that noise outside of the firing range exceeded the 65-decibel threshold listed in the project specifications.

Beyond the sound-reduction aspect, the municipality faces another expense in preparing the range for full use by the Mt. Lebanon Police Department.

Since the building first was designed, the standards have changed for the firearms certification required annually by state Municipal Police Officers’ Education and Training Commission.

“They studied dynamic events where officers have to, unfortunately, use their firearms, and they found that they’re not just stationary shooting. There are incidents where officers are retreating. They’re moving behind cover,” Chief Aaron Lauth said. “That has required officers to qualify now while moving.”

His concern is about projectiles ricocheting off the range’s walls.

“Based on the joints and the concrete block, who knows where it would end up,” he told commissioners. “And obviously, that creates an issue, not as much of an issue when you’re standing in one position, but more of an issue if you’re potentially moving around.”

His proposed solution is to install protective ballistic wall panels, at an estimated cost of $117,000. Lauth said the improvement should appeal to outside organizations seeking range rentals, which would help cover the expense.

The firing range actually represents part of a multimillion-dollar public works facility improvement project for which RSSC submitted a proposal in 2017. When the range was completed, firearms testing indicated sound levels that could prove to be a nuisance for residents who live on the two streets near the building, Cedar Boulevard and Folkstone Drive.

RSSC subsequently developed a remediation plan, which Deiseroth said was scrutinized thoroughly.

“We didn’t accept that as it was. We did our own study. We examined it. We had our own experts,” he said. “And at the end of the day, they made some suggestions and modifications to the original plans that were submitted, and I believe that everybody is on the same page in terms of an agreement that this will work.”

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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