A huge financial grant will enable Terrace Search and Rescue to move swiftly on the construction of their new headquarters, with a grand-opening date already set for August 2019. With a few design options on the board, ongoing fundraising between now and then will determine the end size of the project.
Earlier this month BC Gaming approved a maximum-allowable capital project grant to SAR of $250,000. Member Dave Jephson credits the unyielding support of Terrace City Council and the fire chief for securing the grant.
Without that backing, he said, it would be difficult to convince BC Gaming of the scope and significance of the Terrace SAR unit.
“We didn’t know if we would get rejected, or get the max,” Jephson said. “The amount wouldn’t dictate what we do, but just on how fast we do it.”
SAR purchased an undeveloped 13,000-square foot lot on the corner of Greig and Clinton last December. But the group was awaiting a decision on the BC Gaming grant before they could begin the design phase of the actual building. Now, those preliminary plans call for a structure with a footprint of 6,000-square feet. A second storey will add an additional area of 3,000 square feet, depending on availability of funds. On paper, a headquarters of this size would cost roughly $1.5 million. Jephson, however, expects donations of labour and resources will significantly bring down the cost to between $600,000 and $800,000. Of that amount the group already has about $350,000 in the bank, while local contractors, architects, engineers and suppliers have already stepped up with varying degrees of donated time and resources.
To meet its fundraising goal, SAR has launched a new initiative specifically targeting the corporate world, such as northern mining and forestry operations, that has called upon their services in the past, or may in the future.
“To get to our goal, to be successful, we’ll have to have corporate and industry supporters,” Jephson said. “I’m not going to Ma and Pa to ask for $50 or $100. I won’t ignore it and I won’t downplay its value if it’s offered, but there are other organizations in town that need that money.
“The reason I’m targeting corporate is because Terrace Search and Rescue’s area is vast…it’s not just a Terrace issue. If our team is responding to [Haida Gwaii], or Bella Coola, or, continually, Vanderhoof, Nechako, Burns Lake with our underwater sonar or ROV, that makes them part of Terrace SAR.”
As the organization has expanded its reach since its inception 30 years ago, so have the disciplines under its umbrella, including water rescue, avalanche rescue, rope rescue, tracking and ground search and rescue.
“As our skills have increased, so has our equipment,” making the new building necessary, Jephson said.
After moving out of a trailer, originally parked outside city hall in the 1980s, SAR moved to its current location on Greig St. in the early 90s.
But since then the sophistication of the operation and the inventory has far outgrown the cramped, 2,000-square foot space—equivalent to just one of the vehicle bays planned for the new building. SAR is currently forced to store their inventory of gear, trucks, watercraft, trailers, ROV and other items in four different locations across town.
Thankful for the spaces, Jephson nonetheless says that kind of dispersal can hamper response times during an emergency.
The new building will likely include four vehicle bays, an office, drying room, tool room, radio room, showers, a kitchen and specialized training facilities, such as an exercise room and climbing infrastructure.
Of utmost importance is simply enough space to handle meetings with their full 60 to 70 person membership.
“One of the things we want is to also support our partners [such as local fire departments and BC Ambulance],” Jephson said.
“We all struggle with the room [at the fire hall] because of its size. So if BC Ambulance is running a course on first aid training, for example, certainly we’ll let them use this building…and with a little luck we’ll be able to show it to the community, because this is a community project, at Riverboat Days 2019.” Riverboat Days takes place the August longweekend.