Wednesday, April 23, 2014
AUGUSTA -- A dispute involving a popular youth shooting program has prompted four leaders of the Capitol City Rifle and Pistol Club to resign.
Mike Whitten, of Augusta, who was president of the club, said he and three of the other six club officers, who together make up the executive committee, resigned as a result of an ongoing disagreement about whether a youth program active for nearly four decades should be allowed to continue under its current management.
The Kennebec Shooting Sports Junior Program based at the club, meanwhile, remains active, and popular with both the participating youths and their parents, despite falling out of favor with the club members who resigned.
"They were trying to use scare tactics and bullying to end the youth program," said Julian Beale, who has overseen the program for 38 years. "They were trying to get rid of me. I wish I knew why. If I did know that, maybe we could end up solving the problem."
Beale said those within the club who had a problem with the youth program were a minority and he speculated that the dispute may have had to do with range time at the club.
Whitten resigned a week ago, as did the Capitol City Rifle and Pistol Club's secretary, administrative and executive officer and chief instructor. Whitten said they sought to change the management of the youth shooting program because they and some members of the club had bad relations with leaders of the program, Beale included.
"The people that manage (the youth program) and the executive committee didn't see eye to eye," Whitten said. "We had trouble with them at the club -- not with the kids, but with the management of the program."
Whitten also said he worried about young people potentially being exposed to lead at the club's indoor range, where there were some concerns about lead being present. Whitten said tests for lead were taken at the club but he would not reveal the test results Friday, saying that should be discussed by the current club leadership.
"The lead tests go to the president and the club. I'm not going to comment on the results," Whitten said. "But I wasn't comfortable. The indoor range may not be safe (for youths) to shoot on. The liability is too great."
Nate Wade, acting president of the club, and one of only two club officers who didn't resign, said he had no comment on the club, youth program, or Whitten's concerns about the potential for lead exposure at the indoor range. He said the club will meet Sunday to elect new officers, at which point whoever is elected president may comment.
Beale said the concerns about lead came after adult members of the club tested positive for lead. He said youth program participants were tested for lead and all their tests came back negative.
He said the lead issue was a scare tactic.
"It's safe," he said of youths using the indoor range where, he noted, the young shooters are not allowed down the range where the lead from slugs ends up. He also said parents of the youth program helped clean up the indoor range, and the club had a new ventilation system installed.
Mark Stevens of Oakland, whose 15-year-old son shoots in the youth program, said he's one of the parents who helped clean up the indoor range. Both he and his son were tested for lead, and both came back with levels so low they weren't even measurable.
Young shooters sound off
Parents and participants in the youth program say they love it.
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