The owner of a quarry in Windham plans to make a proposal to town officials tonight that it says will quiet complaints about the testing of high-power rifles in the quarry.

R.J. Grondin & Sons, which operates the quarry off Route 302, and Bushmaster Firearms, which tests its weapons there, have collaborated to develop an indoor firing range that is 100 feet long and has concrete walls 8 inches thick.

The proposal follows months of complaints by residents about noise from the weapons testing. The Town Council will review the plan at a workshop scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Community Center. The proposal for the indoor firing range is expected to be discussed around 8:30 p.m.

The design for the firing range calls for walls that can be separated and transported if necessary.

“It should reduce the noise to a manageable level, if not completely, at the property lines,” said Ken Grondin, president of the family-owned construction company. “This will solve the noise problems that the neighbors have with Bushmaster’s activity.”

People who live near the quarry have submitted a petition with more than 40 signatures to Town Hall, complaining about the noise and land pollution caused by the gunfire.

Town Manager Tony Plante said officials may consider developing a proposal to address Bushmaster’s testing. He said the proposed firing range is a big step in the right direction.

“Bushmaster is a good employer and a good business to have in Windham,” he said. “I’m reasonably comfortable that what Ken is proposing will be a responsible proposal that is respectful of the neighbors’ concerns and meets the needs of Bushmaster.”

The issue dates back to the spring, when a group of residents who live within earshot of the gunfire voiced frustrations to the Town Council.

Grondin blasts about six times a year at its Scott Pit, behind the Ice Cream Dugout on Route 302, west of Little Sebago Lake. The quarry also is home to Bushmaster’s shooting range, which has a 30-foot-tall berm lined with sand. Machine gun rounds are fired into the berm.

For added safety, Grondin built 25-foot-high berms on both sides of the 30-foot wall.

Neighbors say the testing is done without warning and can last for extended periods of time.

“No one wants to sit out and have a cookout and hear machine guns,” said Arthur Balcom, who lives on Mount Hunger Shores Road, about a mile from the quarry. “It reminds you of a war zone. No one wants to hear ‘bang, bang, bang.’“

John Morneault, Balcom’s neighbor, agreed that Bushmaster should come up with a better way to test its guns.

“Some days, it doesn’t bother me. Other days, it’s an absolute annoyance,” Morneault said. “You’ve got to weigh two things we need jobs, but we need peace and quiet too.”

Steve Ellis, who also lives on Mount Hunger Shores Road, said there shouldn’t be any gunfire noise at the quarry. He said Grondin should have built Bushmaster an indoor firing range a long time ago.

“It’s a good idea,” Ellis said, “as long as it’s sound-proof.”

Bushmaster declined to comment, but a representative from the company is expected to address the council tonight.

For many years, Grondin has opened its land to recreational shooters to sight their rifles. People often fish and hunt on Grondin’s land.

Ken Grondin said that as town officials weigh the issue, he hopes they will consider the recreational marksmen who ask to use his property to hunt every fall.

“I will not be willing to eliminate that type of activity,” Grondin said. “Bushmaster’s activity is a lot of rounds and I understand how that would weigh on a neighbor. I’m sure this will resolve their concerns.”

 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at: [email protected]