South Columbia Search and Rescue (SAR) took a sledge hammer to the front of its hall Wednesday, signalling the start of an overhaul that has been a long time coming.
The group operates out of the former Legion building in Fruitvale, which has been a solid clubhouse though its exterior suggests otherwise. The front end of the building, an addition put on years ago, is built on concrete blocks and has started to sink and tear over the years. Spray foam has mended leaky spots and prevented mould but is by no means a solution.
South Columbia SAR has secured $35,500 to do Phase 1 of a redesign and sits tight for the second portion of work, tallying at $112,000, which will include a new three-bay garage and roof.
“We store our vehicles and boat all over Fruitvale and Trail. Every year it ends up moving to a new location because someone gets tired of having it in their driveway,” said Mike Hudson, president of South Columbia SAR. “It’s going to improve our response time because we won’t have to round up our vehicles before we load up …”
Its fleet of two trucks and a boat will also withstand the elements longer when properly stored, he adds.
Phase 1 of the overhaul will see the dilapidated face removed and rebuilt; the property landscaped, and an outdoor staircase added giving it a real “alpine” look.
There is more work to come, but the group has divided the improvements into phases as a means of getting started and achieving its ultimate goal of a renewed functional hall.
“For a couple years now we’ve looked at every option that we could, whether we could move to a new building, a new location,” said Hudson. “We could have put a steel Quonset up for probably half the cost of what we’re looking at, but unfortunately here there’s a little bit more red tape and rules because we’re within a development permit zone in Fruitvale.”
But working with the village has proven to be helpful, he added. Municipal staff guided the volunteer group through the permit process and building a business case.
Footing the entire bill in one go was also unrealistic, added vice president Adam James.
“(The renovation) is really important to us but it’s still lower on the list,” he said. “With the funding we do get priorities are training, and equipment and (the project) has just taken a while to bubble up to the top so we can start making some progress.”
The project was given a boost with donations from individuals, businesses and organizations, including help from Columbia Basin Trust, Teck, Rotary and reduced rates from main contractor, DJM.