Richmond to decide funding for Strait Area Ground Search and Rescue

ARICHAT: Strait Area Ground Search and Rescue (SAGSR) needs municipal funding to continue offering its services.

During the regular monthly meeting of Richmond Municipal Council on February 26 in Arichat, Tanya McChesney with the SAGSR reminded councillors they cover the largest territory in the province. She said they have five members from Richmond County and conducted two searches in the municipality last year.

Their new building in Monastery comes with expenses, McChesney noted, including three new heat humps and plans for a fourth.

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She said they want additional funding from Richmond County this year because they are operating on a tight budget with volunteers who are required to pay equipment and training costs out-of-pocket, while being constantly available for emergencies.

Because it annually costs approximately $60,000 to run the group and they receive only $3,000 from the province, the SAGSR’s Tony Sampson asserted the municipalities have a responsibility to support them.

“We’ve been fighting the government forever,” Sampson stated.

Sampson told councillors other search and rescue groups in the province are well funded and have top-notch equipment, compared to the SAGSR which has one old truck constantly criss-crossing the area. He noted the SAGSR is basing their funding request on what each municipal unit can afford and what is fair for everyone.

“We’re not asking for much, just to support us so we can function,” Sampson told councillors.

With members spread out around the Strait area and beyond, it is difficult to get together and fundraise, Sampson explained.

As a result, McChesney said the SAGSR is seeking clarification from the provincial government as to why search and rescue groups are not supported and funded like fire departments.

Warden Brian Marchand cautioned that basing funding for search and rescue groups on uniform assessment would cost Richmond County.

“I don’t feel it’s 100 per cent fair for them to do it that way,” Marchand stated. “If we go by that model, we’re going to be paying considerably more, much more than some others because we have an industrial park that brings up our uniform assessment.”

Deputy Warden James Goyetche was critical of the lack of support from the province.

“I find it really sad that the Province of Nova Scotia doesn’t help out as they should,” Goyetche said.

Goyetche also wanted to know why some municipalities gave the SAGSR less funding than was requested.

“If everyone gave what Richmond gave, you would’ve received double what you received last year,” Goyetche noted.

McChesney acknowledged that not everyone gave what was asked and they are still speaking with other municipal units. She noted that the province does provide them with funding for insurance, but that was only done after they were asked to help.

Sampson went further, declaring that some municipalities are “nickel-and-diming” the group, despite the fact the SAGSR needs to repair the roof and windows, and replace the carpet in their building, purchase new GPS units and other technology and fund and maintain other equipment.

Council approved a motion to refer the funding request to budget deliberations.