PARKERSBURG - Officials with the Wood County Sheriff's Department said the 30-day cease-and-desist order issued for the Sundowner Gun Range has been served on the business owner.
"A sheriff's deputy went to the gun range on Monday and attempted service directly on Mr. (Kendall) Richards (owner) after the order was issued by the county commission. He was not present at that time. Service was made on Tuesday morning after Mr. Richards came to the sheriff's department on his own and he was served there," said Shawn Graham, chief law enforcement deputy with the sheriff's department.
Graham said a copy of the order also was forwarded to Richards' attorney, James Tinney of Charleston. The order means the business should close down for the 30-day period.
Photo by Pamela Brust
Wood County commissioners, from left, Wayne Dunn,?Steve Gainer and Blair Couch, on Thursday asked the prosecutor to contact the Sundowner Gun Range owner and his attorney about organizing a meeting to discuss the gun range and safety concerns raised by neighbors. On Monday, the commission issued a 30-day cease-and-desist order for the south Parkersburg business.
"If he does not abide by the order, we would then notify the prosecutor to take the appropriate steps," Graham said.
The Sundowner also was on the commission's agenda Thursday.
"We will keep it on the agenda in case we need to take further action," Commissioner Blair Couch said.
The commissioners on Thursday asked Prosecutor Jason Wharton to send a letter to Tinney extending an invitation to the attorney and his client to again meet with the commissioners prior to the end of the 30-day period.
In addition to unanimously voting to issue the cease-and-desist order on Monday, the commissioners also asked Wharton to come up with some proposed legislation that would cover all the gun ranges in the county before the 30-day period expires.
Couch said Monday the commissioners want to address all the gun ranges in the county, not just the Sundowner.
The county commission has authority under state code to implement provisions when is it determined there is a need to eliminate "hazards to public health and safety."
Under W.Va. Code 7-1-3kk the county commission has authority to enact ordinances for the elimination of hazards to public health and safety and to abate anything which the commission determines to be public nuisance.
"I have asked the commissioners, since they are the legislative body, for some direction on what they would like to see in the regulation if they wish to move forward with that. It can include a broad range of things," Wharton said. "Anything provided would be a starting point."
The prosecutor said he could provide some sample ordinances from other areas and allow the commissioners to decide if they want to use parts of those regulations, then he could prepare a proposal for their review.
The commissioners have said they will hold public hearings on whatever is proposed, whether it is required or not.
During Monday's meeting, numerous neighbors of the Gihon Road gun range, residential and commercial, told commissioners they have found bullets on their property which they allege came from the gun range.
Steve Mahaffey, president of the Wildwood Residents' Association, outlined the history of complaints dating back to 2012 which homeowners and business owners located near the Sundowner Gun Range have filed.
Following the meeting, the commissioners unanimously voted to issue the cease-and-desist order to shut down the business for 30 days.
According to the order, the decision was based on "testimony of the Wood County Sheriff's Department and numerous residents of that area that the Sundowner Gun Range posed a hazard to public health and safety."
Property owners contended shooters at the range are not being properly supervised, and said they have photos of individuals at the gun range firing weapons from outside the protected "Blue Sky" shelter area. They expressed concerns about their childrens' safety noting bullets have been found in homes, businesses, trees and on the streets in residential/commercial areas near the gun range.
Richards has met with the commissioners before and permitted residents, county officials and media to tour the facility.
Commission President Wayne Dunn said officials need to meet with the gun range owner's attorney to see if there are other ways it can be made safe, "in order to be fair. He seems, in the past, like he's been willing to try and do additional things to make it safer," Dunn noted.
Couch said rather than "spot zone," he would prefer the commission consider working with the prosecutor to set up a set of criteria for gun ranges, "all gun ranges," he said, noting there are a number of ranges in the county.
During past meetings, Richards has contended there is nothing unsafe about his gun range.