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City of Morgantown has plans for Defense in Depth as first responder training facility

MORGANTOWN — What was touted in December 2017 as the largest state-of-the-art shooting range and training facility in West Virginia and beyond is about to become an asset of the Morgantown Police Department.

Morgantown City Council recently approved on first reading an agreement that would make the 19,938-square-foot facility currently known as Defense in Depth a training center for the city’s first responders.

Through the agreement, the city will be on the hook for $500,000 up front, and a 10-year lease totaling $240,000 annually.

The city will sign a $1.5 million promissory note, and must seek up to $500,000 in additional grant dollars, which would go to the seller/lessor, Mark Nesselroad. However, once the initial $500,000 is paid and the lease terms are satisfied, the balance of the promissory note will be written off, grant or no.

“I’m really stoked about it. I think it’s going to be awesome. I really think it’s going to be great for the city, for the department, for other departments. I think it’s going to be a wonderful thing,” Police Chief Eric Powell told members of council.

Powell said the MPD would take on some existing Defense in Depth staff as civilian employees of the department. At a minimum, the MPD’s training officer will be stationed at the facility.

While there are plans for scheduled public use, events and training courses, the range will cease to be generally open to the public.

The chief believes the state-of-the-art range and training center will be a huge recruitment tool for a department struggling to fill open officer positions, saying, “this gives us something nobody else has and no one will be able to have.”

“You can literally not find another place anywhere else in the state that has a facility like this at this quality, and that will draw people who are interested in doing this as a profession when they see something like that because it shows there’s a commitment, that the quality of training is important,” he added.

According to The Dominion Post archive, Defense in Depth was a $10-million facility when it was constructed in 2017.

At the heart of the facility are two banks of eight 25-foot shooting lanes, each rated to stop anything up to a .50 BMG — a military anti-material round. At the time of its opening, Defense in Depth was one of two ranges in the United States equipped with a Ti Outdoors live-fire simulator capable of engaging shooters in more than 800 scenarios.

“The cornerstone of any good police department is its training. It’s the personnel, but then it’s the training. High-quality training produces high-quality officers, which produce high-quality results when they’re dealing with the things they’re having to deal with,” Powell said, later adding, “This is an opportunity that I think you’re not going to see again. It’s a rare thing to happen and I’m thankful for it.”

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