APEX, N.C. (WNCN) – County leaders are working on a plan that could save the Wake County Firearms Education and Training Center.

But that doesn’t mean it will be open to the public after Jan. 15.

Wake County Board of Commissioners Chairman Greg Ford said an online petition to keep the range open has gained nearly 8,500 signatures.

The message behind those signatures is being heard loud and clear.

“Law-abiding gun owners have the right, and should have the right, to practice their skills, work on certification, and personal safety issues in a safe controlled environment,” said Ford. “That’s why that center was built, and that’s why I want to keep it open for them.”

Ford said since Wake County Sheriff Gerald Baker canceled the contract for the current firing range vendor – the county will have to ask for new bids.

The bidding process could take upwards of a month, which Ford said could lead to the range closing for a short period.

At their Jan. 13 work session, Wake County Commissioners are expected to discuss ways for local law enforcement to continue training at the facility, as well as ways to keep it open to the public.

Baker canceled the contract with Range Safety Management because of a “lack of profitability and a review that fees and funds collected by RSM were not accounted for accurately.”