Plans are moving forward to create a new building for the Vernon Search and Rescue Society (VSAR), whose current building is bursting at the seams.
The Regional District of North Okanagan is seeking a contractor to design and build a new headquarters for the local search and rescue team on Silver Star Road, with a budget set at just over $2.4 million.
VSAR’s current building on Aberdeen Road, next to the RDNO municipal office, has been expanded twice over the years, according to manager Trevor Honigman.
The site would have been expanded a third time, if not for an at-risk toad species that got in the way.
“During the ecological environmental assessment, they found this little frog called the spadefoot toad that lived in the grass next to our building, which stopped us from taking an extra 50 feet of area that we needed,” Honigman explained.
VSAR currently has about 45 volunteer members and responds to between 50 and 80 tasks annually — and its list of rescue vehicles and equipment is only growing. The society’s fleet currently includes an initial response truck, command truck, transport crew-cab truck for moving personnel, a shallow-river jet boat, ATVs, trailers, snowmobiles and more.
It’s more equipment than can be fit into the current building
“We’ve got to the point where we’ve literally scraped the edges of the bays trying to get our vehicles and our vessels inside that building,” Honigman said.
The need for a bigger building is growing alongside the Okanagan’s growth; as more people move to the valley, there are more people pushing into the backcountry, in turn leading to more requests from the BC Ambulance Service and RCMP to assist in search-and-rescue activities.
The RDNO is still working on finalizing the exact future site, and Honigman says the team is hoping to make it through any remaining red tape quickly before rising construction costs during the pandemic push the cost beyond the agreed-upon budget.
“Every month building prices go up and this has been dragging on for a number of years trying to get this taken care of, so we’re eager to have the lands purchased and us starting construction,” Honigman said.
“We’re excited about working with contractors to get this much-needed building developed so that our team can have a place to train, to work out of and to respond to the communities from Nakusp to Westwold and pretty much Kelowna to the Shuswap.”
First opened on March 9, the request for proposals will remain open until May 14 at 4:30 p.m.