NEW CUMBERLAND-Hancock County sheriff's deputies will soon be doing target practice on land the county obtained in a 2004 drug raid.
On Thursday, Hancock County commissioners approved the land, once owned by Glenn and Alice Phillips, for use by the sheriff's department as a shooting range.
"It's a lot easier, with the kind of training we do, to have a specialized place to do it on," Sheriff Mike White said.
Deputies now do their firearms training in Belmont County, Ohio, and at the Hillcrest Wildlife Management Area off Gas Valley Road, where there is a 100-yard shooting range.
Having a dedicated place for target practice will save the department money and time, White said.
"The sheriff's office has been in dire need of a training area for many years," White said in a letter to county commissioners. "Use of this property will greatly enhance our ability to meet the required training for deputies and the K-9 units."
Deputies must train twice a year for night shooting and regular certification, he said. The special reaction team, similar to a SWAT team, also needs extra training to maintain a certain excellence in shooting, he said.
Commissioners' action on Thursday will allow the sheriff's department to move ahead with plans to develop a shooting range on the old Phillips property, on Welton Road in northern Hancock County.
The 27-acre piece of land was seized by the Hancock-Brooke-Weirton Drug Task Force in August 2004 after an investigation showed that the Phillipses were growing marijuana on the property. Alice Phillips was convicted of four counts of manufacturing a Schedule 1 controlled substance (marijuana), and Glenn Phillips was convicted of one count.
The county's seizure of the property under the West Virginia Contraband Forfeiture Act was held up in the courts for several years because of appeals. The county finally took ownership of the property about three months ago, Commissioner Jeff Davis said.
White said it will cost about $5,000 in excavation work to set up the shooting range, which will have four to six stalls. "We're hoping that they can start the earth-moving in the next few days," he said.
The county still has to determine what to do with horses and trailers that were left on the property, White said.
Also Thursday, commissioners approved a bid by Harry Trushel Construction, of Weirton, to replace sidewalks on High Street in New Manchester. The company's bid of $224,800, which included two alternate bids, was the lowest of three, said county Administrative Assistant Cindy Jones.
Commissioners previously had awarded the contract to James White Construction, of Weirton, but, upon review by the West Virginia Division of Highways, it was determined that Harry Trushel Construction had the lowest bid, Davis said.
The project involves the replacement of sidewalks on both sides of High Street, concrete work and paving work from the berm of the road to the sidewalk, Davis said. It will be funded with money from a federal grant and the county.