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Garage for Valley Search and Rescue vehicle fleet under construction in North Kentville

Kings County Coun. Pauline Raven and Valley Search and Rescue president Ashley Perry at the VSAR headquarters in North Kentville where a new garage is under construction. - Kirk Starratt
Kings County Coun. Pauline Raven and Valley Search and Rescue president Ashley Perry at the VSAR headquarters in North Kentville where a new garage is under construction. - Kirk Starratt

NORTH KENTVILLE, NS - Having a building to store its fleet will mean extending the life of vehicles and reduced maintenance costs for Valley Search and Rescue (VSAR).

Work is well underway on the VSAR garage on the grounds of the organization’s headquarters at the Church of Christ property on Middle Dyke Road in North Kentville.

President Ashley Perry said they were considering the option of an area rate to help fund the garage project. They instead decided to apply to the Municipality of the County of Kings for a capital grant through the 2017-2018 budget deliberation process. Kings County council approved a $100,000 capital grant.

Perry said this financial support is what allowed the project to happen. The 45-by-60-foot garage will cost approximately $200,000. The construction contract was awarded to Roscoe Construction.

Perry said they had approximately $60,000 saved through fundraising efforts and the team has approved opening a line of credit if needed to cover the remaining cost.

Garage will make ‘huge difference’

He said having the garage would make a huge difference in terms of extending the life of vehicles and reducing maintenance costs, time and effort. VSAR had to have the command bus towed back from the last search deployment after the brake light came on.

“Really, in an ideal world, you shouldn’t have to put that much time into keeping emergency vehicles on the road,” he said.

The fleet deteriorates faster when left outside in the elements, especially over the winter months. The garage will also help increase response times in poor weather.

He said the garage is a necessity and was the organization’s top priority. Now that the garage is being built, the volunteers can focus on getting new or newer vehicles for the fleet. With the garage to store them in, it’s easier to support an argument for a new vehicle because it’s going to last for decades.

Perry said that aside from the 26-foot trailer, the entire fleet is in need of replacement over the next two to three years. This includes the Blue Bird bus that was converted into a mobile command centre; a Dodge pick-up truck, two Argo amphibious vehicles, and a logistics support vehicle that will soon be replaced with another used vehicle.

Perry said it’s ground breaking for them to have municipal support for capital needs in addition to operational support.

“This might be the most support that’s been shown to a ground search and rescue team in the province to this point,” Perry said.

Volunteers have council’s support

Kings County Coun. Pauline Raven, who represents the North Kentville area, said the investment in new garage would benefit the entire municipality and beyond. She said the grant is a small contribution when you consider the overall value citizens are getting.

She said the grant was top of mind for a number of councillors during budget deliberations and it received a high level of support. She hopes local town councils will also be supportive of VSAR’s capital and operating needs.

“We certainly know that VSAR has more needs than just this garage and we’re hoping to look at ways we can help them with this aging fleet,” Raven said.

She said that when you consider the work the team of volunteers put into fundraising for the garage, meeting the municipality almost half-way with $60,000 and a willingness to raise the remainder if needed, you have what she sees as “the perfect model” of a government-volunteer organization relationship.

Perry said VSAR voted to make Raven an honorary member because of the level of passion and effort she put into the project.

Kings County Mayor Peter Muttart said that search and rescue services are “regrettably under-funded” at the provincial level. Given that protective and emergency services are currently costing Kings municipal taxpayers in excess of $9 million per year, municipal resources are extremely scarce.

“However, in recognition of the efforts of our strong, dedicated group of volunteers in this area, Kings has worked hard and dug deep in order to assist in the construction of a facility to house and protect the equipment that our S&R volunteers require for their work,” Muttart said. “We are proud that we were able to do so – and we are proud of our S&R volunteers who train and work tirelessly to keep our people safe.”

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