Comox Valley Search and Rescue is typically the busiest SAR group on Vancouver Island, but its home of 25 years on Moray Avenue in Courtenay is getting too expensive to keep renting.
“Currently, rent is around $80,000 a year,” said CVGSAR President Paul Berry. “Our funding from the provincial government is $86,000, so that takes a big bite.”
CVSAR is anticipating a rent increase on July 1 of roughly 15 per cent. So when most of its provincial funding goes to rent, a lot of fundraising is required to keep the rest of the operation going.
It’s an uneven playing field compared to every other SAR group on the Island.
“We are the only search and rescue team on Vancouver Island that is not housed on public land,” Berry added.
One example is the new Arrowsmith Search and Rescue building in Qualicum Beach that opened last October. Arrowsmith has a dollar-a-year lease for 40 years with the town.
The Comox Valley Regional District says it’s been unable to come up with any land for the team but has committed $100,000 a year for the next five years to help construct a new building on top of additional grants of $50,000.
So in the meantime, CVSAR continues to look for a suitable build option, but the land cost keeps increasing.
“Land values are high,” said Berry.
“We’ve certainly been looking, but also because they’re high, we don’t have access to some of the provincial capital grants because there are limits on what the cost of a facility can be. All facilities or building facilities here on the Island is higher than that grant will allow.”
The team has now decided to seek a permanent future site for operations either from their current location or a new build within the Valley, as their current lease ends in 2023, according to information on the organization’s website.
“Comox Valley SAR has always been fiscally prudent and began the process of setting aside funds three years ago towards this goal,” reads the website.
“It is expected that the purchase price of the existing building or to build new will be between $1,200,000 and $1,500,000. As such, we will be looking to our community to help us establish a permanent home through an ambitious fund-raising campaign.”
The ‘Roofs for Rescuers’ campaign has raised $470,000 so far, and more information is on GVSAR website.