Nanaimo Search and Rescue will settle into the Harewood Activity Centre as a permanent base of operations.
On Monday, City of Nanaimo council approved the issuance of a 25-year co-management agreement with Nanaimo Search and Rescue for use of the Harewood Activity Centre at 191 and 195 Fourth St.
“Different options have been looked at and I’m really pleased we’ve landed on this one,” said Coun. Ian Thorpe. “I think it’s a good solution and it will provide some security for the rescue group for the years ahead.”
The rec centre space in the old firehall was being used by four other community groups, but Richard Harding, general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the city has worked with those other groups to find alternative spaces.
Donna Hais of R.W. (Bob) Wall Ltd. spoke on behalf of Nanaimo Search and Rescue at Monday’s city council meeting and said the group needs the entire space, as it wishes to move its trucks downstairs to the old firehall bays and develop the training space upstairs.
Search and rescue has $1.15 million to invest in a permanent facility, mostly thanks to a $1-million anonymous donation. The group had explored relocation, including to the former Greater Nanaimo Water District offices on Nanaimo Lakes Road, but according to a City of Nanaimo staff report, a new facility there would have cost $2 million and NSAR was unsuccessful in securing funding from the Regional District of Nanaimo to build at that site.
Hais said search and rescue, with the security of a 25-year co-management agreement, can develop a plan for “substantial” renovations to the activity centre.
“We’re to a place where we feel we can have a permanent home,” she said.
Rent will be $24,000 per year, which in the past has been paid by the RDN. The municipality will cost share with NSAAR on a facility plan study, expected to cost $40,000.
Council was unanimous in supporting the agreement, with several members of council expressing thanks to Nanaimo Search and Rescue members for their community service.
“I have a deep respect for the work of search and rescue…” said Coun. Erin Hemmens. “It [is] really quite something to know that folks are being called out of their bed in the middle of the night in inclement weather to support first responders, to support folks looking for lost individuals. This is just an amazing service for our community.”