Vernon Search and Rescue needs/wants a new home.
The organization which helps find and rescue lost hikers, snowmobilers, skiers, etc. has outgrown its present location in Coldstream, situated right beside the Regional District of North Okanagan office. The facility, which the organization built in 1994, has been expanded once but it’s simply too small to house its equipment, and more space is needed for storage and for training.
VSAR has scraped together nearly $200,000 on its own but they are looking for both land and building. Ideally, search and rescue would like a 9,200 square foot facility that would house all of its needs. Location is also a primary concern. A central location would be ideal for members to easily get to, and highway access is also a major requirement.
VSAR, it says, has exhausted its options, so they turned to the regional district for help, asking that they go to an alternate approval process (AAP) to borrow $3.5 million, which search and rescue says will cover a new building and property.
If the alternate approval process and loan authorization and service establishment bylaw is created, consent for the borrowing is needed from the public. If the AAP is approved, 10 per cent of the electorate would have to vote AGAINST the borrowing of $3.5 million to defeat it.
If it’s defeated, directors could then vote to go to referendum to borrow the money. A referendum would be a regional district-wide vote by the public for or against the borrowing. The alternate approval process is cheaper and quicker than going to a referendum.
If the process succeeds, the RDNO would own the building and land but they have said they would play a very limited ownership role, ie, the building and property would basically be run by VSAR.
To a person, RDNO board of directors support VSAR. You would think, then, that approving a motion to create a service establishment loan bylaw, go the alternate approval process and have the process start as soon as possible would be a slam dunk, right?
After directors talked for nearly 30 minutes, then unanimously agreed to look into the loan bylaw and AAP process, as well as other options, Vernon director Brian Quiring motioned to have only one option on the table: the AAP process. His motion was defeated, the result of a 7-7 tie vote among directors.
Directors from Vernon, Coldstream, Lumby, Armstrong and Spallumcheen – all of which have councils – voted against the motion because they felt they couldn’t make a decision without having talked to their council colleagues about the request.
I get that.
But that could mean asking VSAR members to come to a council meeting and make the same pitch to councils that they’ve made to RDNO. Had directors agreed to Quiring’s motion, the ball could have got rolling within a month. It may take a month to discuss the request at councils, then bring those discussions back to RDNO.
I would be mystified, stupefied, horrified and terrified if even one politician – in a municipal election year – didn’t find VSAR a needed service that seeks new digs and that the AAP process is the way to go on this.
VSAR has been around for 58 years. They have about 65 volunteers who are on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and are setting records year after year now for callouts, averaging more than 40 tasks a year. And not only is that in RDNO territories, but they also assist in other jurisdictions.
It’s an organization that helps communities and now it needs some help.
I will be mystified, stupefied, horrified and terrified if this request doesn’t go the alternate approval process.