gun range

PHOTO PROVIDED BY A2 GROUP, INC.

An aerial photo of the firing range from A2 Group, Inc.’s website. The housing development can be seen nearby

Charlotte County commissioners put the brakes on a hostile legal action against the local contractor that was building the county’s firing range.

The board decided this week to wait another two weeks before considering A2 Group Inc. in default of its contract. The default status would allow the county to apply to use the contractor’s surety bond to finish the project.

“If you declare the contractor in default today, you’re going to pass the point of no return,” A2’s lawyer, David Holmes, told the board Tuesday.

A2 said the issue of contention is whether the roof meets hurricane codes. The county says it’s the baffle system that’s the problem, which protects the public from stray bullets.

Commissioner Stephen R. Deutsch said he had not heard the issues raised by Holmes at the hearing.

“Frankly, the impression I had was, we pretty much had been the good guys and been wanting to work this out, and you guys weren’t responding,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to know, when there’s two attorneys involved, there’s a difference of opinion.”

Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office has used and operated a firing range off Carmalita Street in Punta Gorda since 2007. It was an open range with just a earthen berm to stop bullets. A developer, Lerner Realty Group, filed suit in 2016 against the county, identifying hundreds of bullet fragments in the location where houses were to be built.

In response to the complaints, the county eventually decided to build a new facility on the site. It was to be mostly enclosed and would have a modern baffling system. In 2018, the county awarded a $4.9 million contract to A2 to build the facility. It was supposed to have been completed in February or March.

The new facility is designed to be both indoor and outdoor. A2 claims that an engineer has asserted that the open structure makes it impossible to protect the roof from uplift by high winds.

“The wind code issue is the big issue here,” Holmes said.

A county attorney, Lori Tetreault, however, said the issue is that A2 bought a different baffle system than the one the county required.

County Attorney Janette Knowlton said resolution is unlikely and litigation is likely.

“We have attempted to work out a resolution with A2 since last October,” she said.

Commissioner Christopher Constance said if the issue isn’t resolved in two weeks, the commission should do as staff have requested, declare A2 in default.

“A Squared’s done about $1.9 billion worth of work across the state in the last 25 years,” Holmes said. “A Squared has never been declared in default. A Squared has never been sued. A Squared believes there is a more cost effective solution to meet this wind code problem. A Squared is willing to work with the county on that solution.”

Deutsch was optimistic, and cited the reported trade and immigration resolution with Mexico.

“If we can get together with Mexico, I’m sure we can work this out.”

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