Searching for a home for Rossland Search and Rescue
The race to secure an in-town home base for Rossland Search and Rescue (RSAR) took a small step forward this week.
The RSAR, founded in 1999 and with 55 current members, does not officially have a home. Currently, they are storing their unique-in-the-region mobile command centre in a covered shed In the City’s works yard on Third Avenue. Right now, the RSAR is waiting to apply for funding through the province’s gaming grants system to construct or renovate a building to be used as their permanent headquarters. While the group doesn’t have any full time employees and operates on a volunteer basis, they have demonstrated a need for a permanent location to better serve their needs. Such a facility would be used for ongoing training, act as a search operations base; meeting, briefing, and debriefing room; command trailer; and equipment storage. The race part of the equation involves the fact that the gaming grants application deadline is looming at the end of November. In order to qualify for the grants, which may or may not be available at their current level in the future, the RSAR needs a non-binding “Expression of Interest” from the City of Rossland with respect to a long term lease at a nominal lease rate on a tract of land within, or close to, the city. Over the summer, City staff identified four potential locations Rossland could offer the group. Each piece of land comes with its own positives and negatives. Council discussed them this past Monday night. The four options include the tract of land on the south side of 3rd Avenue across from the Emcon yard and the arena; a location inside the Lion’s Park Campground area near the ball field parking lot off Dunn Crescent; and one of two locations on the Rossland Museum property. The 3rd Avenue location is already serviced with sewer, water and power and would be the least costly for the City to hook up. Negatively, it is also in the heart of a residential neighbourhood and could potentially affect plans down the road for development of the Emcon Lot. Locating the facility in the Lion’s Park gets it further away from residential neighbourhoods and may make for quicker access to the highway but the location lacks city services. With ample parking and immediate access to the highway, the museum site also stays well away from residential neighbourhoods. The Museum Society, however, (as noted by City Staff) may not be keen on having this operation next to their own as full-scale search and rescue operations could affect the museum’s use of the site. Councilor Jill Spearn supported the Third Avenue location as being the least expensive to the City. “We should be keeping this fiscally sound for the people of Rossland and not going hither and tither to places where there are no services right now.” Suggesting that the RSAR facility could impede any future development on the Emcon lot, Councilor Hanne Smith spoke against the Third Avenue location. “That area is opposite the mid town transition area. The advantage is that it’s flat and it has parking at the arena. There are also some issues that could come up regarding the concept of the development of that area and whether or not putting that type of a building would preclude other options for the Emcon yard.” To this, Spearn responded, “Sure, we hope something is going to get developed on the Emcon sometime in the next century, but I like that site. Those lots are serviced. Let`s put it there; they can start building tomorrow.” One key to the designation of property the RSAR is looking for is that it is non-binding and designed as an assistance tool for the group to secure grants and funding. The designation would fall in line with that made by the City in December 2009 to grant the North West corner of the Emcon lot to the Rossland Skateboard Association to allow them to pursue funding. It was noted by mayor Greg Granstrom that designating the land for the RSAR facility now doesn’t preclude the city from moving such a facility or changing what goes on that site at a later date. “It’s the same as we did with the skate park. We said, ‘here’s a piece of land: go see if you can get some funding and then we’ll talk’.” The motion to go forward with the Third Avenue site was defeated, with Spearn the lone councilor voting in support of that motion. Throughout the discussion, support from the majority of council leaned towards the two sites in Lion’s Park and at the museum. Later in the evening, during a separate discussion regarding duplex rezoning and stopping sprawl Councilor Spearn added. “We talk about urban sprawl; well that’s exactly what placing the Search and Rescue facility outside of the current city core is. We’ve got a lot with services ready to go and we’re talking about placing it somewhere with no services outside of the city.” Ultimately council supported Councilor Charlton’s motion to respond to RSAR and inform the group that the city will participate in the project with them and offer either the Lion’s Park or one of the two museum sites for the project.