Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott spoke to reporters at the Greene County Jail Dedication. (Photo by Shannon Cay)

Greene County deputies will be able to conduct firearm training from a $2.4 million shooting range in Strafford paid for by the nonprofit Sheriff Arnott’s Distinguished Posse.

During a recent round of American Rescue Plan Act grant awards from the Greene County Commission, the Distinguished Posse received $500,000, which is being matched through private donations to reach the total construction price.

The nonprofit is a “distinguished group of citizens that have banded together to assist the sheriff in providing safety, health and welfare to the citizens of Greene County.”

“This just shows another way of a public-private partnership that is a model,” Greene County Sheriff Jim Arnott told the Springfield Daily Citizen. “I can’t say enough about the county, jumping in with the opportunity to apply for a ARPA grant. Us receiving that is a huge, huge benefit.”

What is Sheriff Arnott’s Distinguished Posse?

Sheriff Arnott’s Distinguished Posse, a 501(c)(3) that was founded in 2018, is not to be confused with Sheriff’s Mounted Posse of Greene County, which is also a nonprofit that was established in 2010. 

The Mounted Posse is, as the name suggests, an equestrian program, with volunteers that assist law enforcement with a variety of tasks, from events and fundraisers to search and rescue operations, according to Arnott.

Arnott is on the board of directors of both organizations, and is the president of the Distinguished Posse. The board of the Distinguished Posse is also composed of former-Greene County Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin, Mike Copeland and William Killian, according to Missouri Secretary of State filings. Only Killian is not an officer. Copeland is the treasurer and Cirtin is the secretary.

Cirtin lost the Republican primary to current presiding commissioner Bob Dixon in 2018.

Both the Distinguished Posse and the Mounted Posse have never had gross receipts adding to more than $50,000 in a single year, according to 2021 filings (the most recent available) from the IRS. According to the Distinguished Posse’s ARPA application, the total annual budget of the agency is $25,000.

The Distinguished Posse is composed of 43 volunteers, according to the ARPA application filed with the Greene County Commission, and serves the entirety of Greene County.

Part of a 112-acre property in Strafford will be developed into a law enforcement training ground with a firing range. (Photo by Jack McGee)

Deputies have been borrowing range time from other agencies

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office has been without its own firing range for more than 40 years, according to Arnott, which he detailed in the grant application. In the past, they have used facilities for “free” from other agencies, including the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners, the Springfield Police Department and other small municipalities.  

“They’ve really been at the mercy of, ‘Is there time available, is there space available?’ All of those things,” Dixon said. 

According to the grant application, the facilities deputies used in the past were “inadequate” and “no longer available.” 

“The problem is, we have so many employees now that we are running out of places to borrow,” Arnott said. “We’ve tried to manage, it hasn’t been very good the last five years.”

A spokesperson from the Springfield Police Department said the City of Springfield has a memorandum of understanding with the Greene County Sheriff’s Office to use the city’s firing range at no cost. The contract is renewable via action from City Council. 

$1.4 million left to raise

Part of a 112-acre piece of property northeast of the Interstate 44/Highway 125 interchange in Strafford will be developed into a law enforcement firing range, partially through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding. (Greene County Assessor’s Office GIS map illustrated by Rance Burger)

With $500,000 each from the ARPA funding and from private donations, in addition to the donation of seven acres in Strafford Arnott said is valued at around $300,000, the firing range construction project has already begun. Basic “dirt work” is complete at a cost of about $35,000, according to the application.

The seven acres the firing range will sit on is on a much larger piece of land that was rezoned to highway commercial with a planned unit development overlay (PUD), according to Strafford City Administrator Martha Smartt. 

The address provided to the City of Strafford for the firing range itself is 545 E. Evergreen St. according to Smartt, which is also the home of trucking company Wilson Logistics. The larger planned development, which encompasses approximately 112 acres divided into three parcels, is generally located at 797 E. Evergreen St., which is owned by Wilson Mo Holdings, LLC.

In addition to the firing range and training facility, proposed uses of the property include a commercial strip center, a restaurant, and a hotel and a truck wash, among other potential developments.

After concerns from officials in Strafford were addressed by the developer, the Strafford Planning and Zoning Commission and Board of Aldermen each unanimously voted for the PUD application when it was first introduced in 2020, and passed an amended PUD in 2022.

“We see this as a win-win,” Smartt said. “But I’ll also share that there has been much deliberation that has gone into this because there are certain unknowns or perceived concerns that the community or even one of our boards may have and we wanted to be able to present to them, with a level of confidence, that we had reviewed their proposal thoroughly to be able to present to them our recommendation.”

In addition to meeting regulatory standards, Smartt said they had to ensure the developer would take steps in mitigating any possible nuisances a firing range could create in a city of roughly 2,600 people along the Interstate 44 corridor. 

“That basically gave us a leg up, that we had the land donated,” Arnott said. “Otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to start it.”

While the $1 million the Distinguished Posse has will be enough to help get the basic range completed, an additional $1.4 million is needed to build the additional components of the facility, according to Arnott.

The ARPA application lists an estimated completion date of August 2023, but Arnott said it will depend on when they’re able to obtain additional funding. With potential donors who want to help complete the project, he said “it may be quicker than we think.”

Smartt said that the developer will still submit final plans for review, and that she anticipates continued cooperation to address any additional concerns that may arise.

“It’s been a good dialogue between the city and the developer and the sheriff,” she said.

Arnott said that the price of $2.4 million was the lowest bid the Distinguished Posse got for the project, which is described in the grant application as a “state-of-the-art” facility that will include a handgun range, a rifle range, simunition training and a training house with moving and stationary targets in a “well-buffered” area of Strafford.

The building itself is allowed to be up to 10,000 square feet, according to the amended PUD.

Smartt indicated the firing range will be constructed on a northern corner of the property, currently inaccessible by public roads.

While the new shooting range will be operated by the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and provide ample space for firearms training, the Distinguished Posse will own it. Although the exact terms have not been decided, Arnott said that the nonprofit will probably lease it to the sheriff’s office for a “$1 a year kind of thing.”

Commissioners, Arnott explain how Distinguished Posse plays role in constructing firing range 

Wilson Logistics is a freight company with a building on the north side of Interstate 44 in Strafford. (Photo by Jack McGee)

While the Sheriff’s Office could have applied for the ARPA grant, rather than the Distinguished Posse, the money would have, in short, not gone as far.

Arnott explained the additional funding necessary for the project was not available in the sheriff’s office budget, especially with Greene County’s $150 million new jail, where Arnott said they “focused” all of their money.

Additionally, he said that the sheriff’s office and county didn’t have the land for the shooting range, and it ultimately would have cost Greene County more than what the Distinguished Posse is paying. 

“Quite frankly, when you build a government building, you pay two to three times a normal construction cost,” Arnott said. “We’re not doing that. There’s no way, financially, we would have been able to afford this type of facility through regular government channels… I don’t think this could have been accomplished without a significant amount of money that we just don’t have.”

The Greene County Commission praised the move, after voting to award the Distinguished Posse $500,000. 

“We’re always looking for ways to maximize things, all of our officeholders are, and this is a great example of really maximizing what’s available,” Dixon said. “We don’t have the public funds unless we go out for another tax increase.”

“We’re all extremely excited about the ability to provide this for the region as a whole and, specifically, the Greene County deputies,” said John C. Russell, the Second District commissioner. “Because it is really going to be a tremendous benefit to the sheriff’s department and the entire region, and we’re able to do it not using the funds of the Greene County taxpayers.”

First District Commissioner Rusty Maclachlan emphasized the need for the sheriff’s office to have a new firing range available for training, and that it is essential for both the officers’ safety and that of the community. 

“Our law enforcement officers are only as good as their training,” Maclachlan said. “If you can’t train every day with the weapons you need to use or the tools that you need to use, more than weapons, you’re not going to be as efficient. I love analogies, but Patrick Mahomes doesn’t go out and throw touchdown passes because he only throws a pass on Sunday. He practices, practices, practices.”

Commission determined application fit scope for ARPA funds

The County Commission established a citizen advisory committee of 10 individuals, headed by ARPA Grant and Equity Specialist Lyle Foster.

The committee makes recommendations to the commission, which votes on the allocation of funding. However, the committee did not review the application by the Distinguished Posse, because it was considered “county-wide.” 

While these county-wide applications were primarily comprised of tax-supported entities, the Commission also reviewed applications by nonprofits that serve a governmental purpose. In addition to the Distinguished Posse in the recent round of awards by the commission, the Southwest Council of Governments, also a nonprofit, received a combined $100,000.

ARPA applicants must illustrate how the use of funds, if awarded, complies with the Final Rule from the U.S. Department of the Treasury, which establishes eligibility guidelines for ARPA grant recipients. In describing how the firing range fits within the scope of APRA funding for economic recovery form the COVID-19 pandemic, it reads, in part:

“In order to effectively respond to increased crime and gun violence caused by the negative economic impacts of COVID-19, the Greene [County] Sheriff’s Office must focus on education and training of the law enforcement officers who respond to this increased crime…In compliance with the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Final Rule, following the National Association of Counties Executive Summary, it is our desire to not only meet but strengthen our public safety infrastructure with this funding.” 

Jack McGee

Jack McGee is the government affairs reporter at the Springfield Daily Citizen. He previously covered politics and business for the Daily Citizen. He’s an MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in journalism and a minor political science. Reach him at or (417) 837-3663. More by Jack McGee