Arrowsmith search and rescue wants to build a new home

Current facility in Hilliers no longer able to meet the needs of the organization’s operations

Arrowsmth Search and Rescue has outgrown its current facility located in Hilliers and is seeking the Regional District of Nanaimo’s help in a move to a new hall in Qualicum Beach.

Arrowsmith SAR is currently sharing a building with the Coombs/Hilliers Fire Department, and space has become a growing concern, the chapter said in a letter to the RDN board of directors.

According to ASAR manager Ken Neden, there’s no longer enough room to accommodate their four vehicles, logistics trailer and equipment trailer. Two vehicles and the logistics trailer are now stationed at a member’s residence, which is some distance away from Hilliers.

The group has approaced the Regional District of Nanaimo for help. Neden, in his letter to the board, indicated that the ASAR is working on gaining the necessary apporovals and funding to build a new hall, possibly at the Qualicum Beach Airport.

Neden said the first step in the process is to get an agreement with the RDN to buy the ASAR out of its share of the Coombs/Hilliers Fire Hall, which they built in 2003-2004. The group is asking $200,000.

The current arrangement ASAR has in Hilliers, Neden said, is unable to meet the needs of their operations. Current zoning and bylaws also preclude an expansion of the current hall.

“Given the location, our callout times are much longer than needed owing to the proximity of our facility relative to where the typical response is required, Neden wrote. “Added response times obviously compromise safety.”

As the region’s population grows, the ASAR’s equipment inventory has increased dramatically and Neden expects this trend to continue.

Neden said that the Town of Qualicum Beach is interested in accommodating the ASAR and is setting land aside to help them build a four-bay steel building.

Also, being located in the airport would mean quick access to air support should it be required.

“Their contribution of land is vital to meeting our needs and affords us the chance to invest in facilities,” Neden told the board.

Arrowsmith SAR expects the expansion project to cost between $750,000 to $800,000 for just the building. To fund it, they will have to tap into their finances of $200,000. With an expected $200,000 payout from the RDN and a Capital Gaming Grant application of $250,000, they hope to be able to get the project moving.

The search and rescue group also plans to ask assistance from the City of Parksville, Coastal Community Credit Union, local service clubs and other potential funding sources.

At the RDN’s committee of the whole meeting on Tuesday afternoon, Electoral Area E director Bob Rogers supported the Arroswmith Search and Rescue and described the group’s volunteers as “very enthusiastic.” He suggested the group meet with RDN staff to discuss the best funding options and direction for their expension plans.

Electoral Area H director and board Chair Bill Veenhof made a motion to support the ASAR’s plan to pursue funding from various sources and to convince the province and other grant providers to aid the ASAR’s project.

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