Comox Valley Search and Rescue (CVSAR) is asking the regional district to increase its annual operating grant, and to help find a new site for the volunteer organization that has been serving the valley for 50 years.
CVSAR’s range of services include a host of environments besides mountaintops or bodies of water. In a Tuesday presentation to the CVRD board, president Paul Berry said the team provides expertise to help police locate seniors with dementia who wander and become lost, as one example. They are also summoned to collect unhoused or addicted individuals who die alone at home or at remote encampments, and return them to their families.
“This is the work that we do more and more often,” Berry said, noting volunteers are increasingly needed to assist with wildfires and other natural disasters around B.C.
He noted that CVSAR is the only search and rescue team on Vancouver Island that pays rent for its base of operations. Rent will reach $80,000 a year at its base at Moray Avenue in Courtenay.
Last year was the first year that SAR teams were allocated annual funding on the provincial budget, but it was only enough to support half of the annual operations. All Island SAR teams have allocated land or facilities at no or minimal cost, Berry added.
CVSAR’s vision is to build a disaster steel structure for training and housing equipment.
“We are a very frugal team,” he said, noting $500,000 in GICs are allocated to the building project. “We’ve always been leaders in search and rescue in B.C. but we are now falling behind due to the significant financial constraints we are facing.”
Area A director Daniel Arbour thinks the district needs to “step up to the plate” and help the organization.
“Clearly there’s a gap in regards to that building,” he said.
“You guys do great work,” added Comox director Ken Grant, who asked if senior governments could contribute. “This is a big ask, but it’s an important ask.”
CVSAR is ineligible for a $250,000 gaming grant because of land values and building costs in the valley.
Berry said the society needs a couple of acres. The most desirable land is on Grant Road adjacent to the Visitor Centre.
The board approved a staff recommendation to contribute $100,000 a year for the next five years towards a land purchase and/or facility construction, and to help CVSAR develop a business plan for a new facility.