The Franklin County Humane Society and the county have reached a tentative agreement to reopen the access road to the public gun range in Eastpoint, after the county commissioners put an embargo on the funds it planned to allocate to the non-government organization.
At their Sept. 17 budget hearing, commissioners voted to freeze the $36,278 allocation, due to the humane society having shut down the road to the gun range, which is about three miles off of U.S. 98. The commissioners promised to release the monies from reserve for contingencies if the humane society backed off its closure.
Bud Hayes, chairman of the board of the non-profit humane society, said he worked out a tentative arrangement with County Attorney Michael Shuler, and that the society has reopened the road. The commissioners are expected to address the issue at their Oct. 1 meeting.
“We made people aware ahead of time, six weeks before. We first put out signs we were going to close the road, that we intended to close access over the property,” Hayes said.
Describing the road as a driveway, Hayes said the society took the position that it owns the land, after it was given it in 1988 by the county.
“In the deed, there is no reservation of any easement or implied easement,” Hayes said. “We have simple title to the land with no restrictions. We own it.
“It’s just like somebody trespassing in your front yard,” he said.
Hayes said the humane society decided to close the route primarily because the gunfire was disturbing to the animals and was a risk to volunteers.
“Most animals that we take are somewhat distressed when they come to the shelter and have to put up with gunfire,” he said. “Our concern was for the health of the animal and for the safety of workers.”
He said workers who walk dogs also have out with disturbances and there has been “some drinking going on” at the range.
“People shooting TVs and all kind of strange targets,” Hayes said. “People are out there (at the shelter) with the kids. And out people have to clean it up.”
He said humane society personnel have had to clear shell boxes, cartridges and beer cans.
Hayes said while the drive off of State Route 65 remains open temporarily, “we didn’t say welcome shooters or anything. This is until we get something worked out.”
He said both he and Shuler agreed “it’s going to be a tremendous waste of monies” to spend money on litigation and both sides want to avoid that.
Hayes encouraged serious shooters to take advantage of the brand-new, live gun range just west of Apalachicola, which features three measured stations and tables, for shooters to sight their deer rifles. The city charges a $200 annual fee for membership, although there is a lower priced option for guests to use it on a daily business.
Hayes said the humane society has an annual budget of about $250,000 to $300,000, with its largest annual fundraiser, April’s Brewfest on St. George Island, bringing in over $40,000.
He said the society has had a survey done of the 2.3-acre tract, and that animal control is on the property. “We have a great relationship with animal control,” Hayes said.
He said shelter director Karen Martin is working with an architect on the expansion of two more pre-fab buildings to enable the shelter to service more animals. Currently, the shelter takes in about 60 to 70 dogs a month, he said.