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Comox Valley Search and Rescue seeks without cost land allocation for new building

With costs rising for rent and more requests for help, Comox Valley Search and Rescue says they need land at low cost to keep themselves afloat and build a new facility.

According to CVSAR treasurer Bronwen Beedle, the annual rent at their current facility will hit $80,000 this year. Beedle adds the costs of insurance, replacement equipment, fuel, travel and training have all gone up as well.

Beedle adds that with the costs increasing, it’s possible they will not be able to continue with new build plans.

“If it’s going to cost us in the neighbourhood of $80,000 per year, we won’t be able to fundraise at the same time,” said Beedle. “That money that we’ve been putting towards the new building fund will have to go towards rent.”

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Beedle adds they are the only first responders in the Comox Valley who are sorting bottles to make ends meet, and the cost is affecting the amount of training they can do with members.

Beedle and director at large Darren Boss presented to Courtenay council Wednesday, seeking a “without cost” land allocation, suggesting a location in the downtown with a high number of urban calls.

“In our last five callouts, four of them have been urban services,” said Beedle. “That’s since January.”

Beedle added that 2022 was the first-year funding was allocated from province for search and rescue, but they represent half the required funding to support annual operations.

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CVSAR is the only search and rescue organization paying rent for their operations on the Island, according to Beedle. She adds all other teams on the Island have land or facilities allocated to them by districts or municipalities at little cost, often around $1 annually.

This includes Campbell River SAR, who share a space with the fire department, Nanaimo SAR and Arrowsmith SAR. Beedle says Nanaimo and Arrowsmith have opened new facilities in the last few years, each with a cost of around $2.5 million.

The team would like to build a 13 metre by 27 metre emergency building at a cost of $1.5 million with new land.

Courtenay councillors are hoping the province can help get the project off the ground and find a solution, however, mayor Bob Wells adds it is difficult to find the land and funds to do so.

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“One of the challenges we have as a municipality is we don’t have a lot of land to begin with,” said Wells. “We get about $0.07 on the tax dollar that is collected from all of residents and most of it goes to the province and the feds.

“We don’t actually get enough money to deal with our own roads, water and sewer and we’re often fighting other municipalities for grant money.”

Councillor Doug Hillian added that he hopes they will be able to help to advocate for the area with other municipalities’ support.

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