SNOW HILL — While there has been a recent dustup over explosive testing on the Landmaid Road firing range, the Worcester County Commissioners decided to once again allow the FBI to use the site for field demonstrations.
“It’s a win for us, it’s a win for them,” said Commissioner Virgil Shockley.
For the past 14 years, the Maryland-Delaware Joint Terrorism Task Force has held its annual Basic Anti-Terrorism Training for Law Enforcement (BATTLE) Conference in Ocean City, with an accompanying live field demonstration at the county-owned Newark firing range. More than 300 attendees from local, state and federal law enforcement agencies are expected for the conference, which will take place April 9-13.
The demonstrations will involve explosives of less than two pounds and will last about two hours.
Last fall there was an outcry from some Worcester residents when they learned that the commission granted Hardwire LLC, a military-armor manufacturer, permission to use the Newark location for testing their products. Those tests would include the detonation of explosives up to 25 pounds.
Because of the negative response from many members of the community, Hardwire chose to withdraw its request to use the site. Despite the recent controversy, Shockley doesn’t expect there to be any issues with the FBI demonstrations.
“It’s a small test,” he said. “They blow up a car or two.”
Many of the common concerns voiced about Hardwire using the site included damage to the environment and noise pollution. Shockley admitted that “there will be sound” and said that he’s gotten calls in years past by confused residents, but doesn’t believe that the short demonstration will be particularly disruptive. As for environmental impact, the FBI, as per usual, will be “responsible for cleanup and notification of area residents of the training,” according to a memo from Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon.
McMahon brought the request to the commission Tuesday. He stressed that the demonstration will be no different this year than in the past, but did acknowledge that his office wanted to be as open as possible about the site given the recent Hardwire controversy.
Shockley noted the valuable training and experience for Worcester employees, including five compensated seats at the BATTLE conference, which would normally cost $1,000.