Nanaimo Search and Rescue members Tonya Dunn

Nanaimo Search and Rescue members Tonya Dunn

Nanaimo Search and Rescue wants city land lease

Nanaimo city council has asked for a staff report on a land lease request from Nanaimo Search and Rescue.

Nanaimo Search and Rescue wants a land lease with the City of Nanaimo after finding a place to call home.

The search group is looking to build a permanent facility on civic property along Nanaimo Lakes Road, having received a million-dollar pledge from an unnamed donor whose son died at the Nanaimo River 30 years ago.

City council asked for a staff report on the request during an open meeting Monday.

Nanaimo Search and Rescue currently rents space at the old Harewood fire hall, which members say has issues like limited parking and storage space.

The group has zeroed in on a 0.33-hectare property near the old reservoir on Nanaimo Lakes Road, suggested as an option in a preliminary meeting with city staff members. Rob Christopher, search and rescue president, and Richard Römer, building director, say the site is easily accessible for members, near training grounds and would allow volunteers to respond quickly to hot-spot areas.

A renovation was considered for the fire hall, but would have required a seismic upgrade and wouldn’t have addressed parking.

“We could continue to make that work,” said Christopher, of the fire hall. “I don’t think many groups have the opportunity to have a donation of this size to be able to work with their communities to have a permanent location.”

Nanaimo Search and Rescue asked the city to partner on providing a permanent home and to lease land. Christopher said when they started to work on logistics it was quickly realized although a million dollars is a lot of money, they couldn’t build a building that would suit their current needs and future needs as well as acquire land.

In an interview with the News Bulletin, Christopher said a permanent home would mean they wouldn’t have to worry about having to disrupt service to the community with another move. Before the fire hall, search and rescue stored equipment at the home of a search manager.

“The hall we’re in now, it’d be semi-permanent, but unfortunately plans with the city could change,” he said, also adding that it’s not safe from an earthquake perspective. “So if there’s a natural disaster we’d be unable to respond.”

Nanaimo city councillors Jim Kipp and Wendy Pratt called the project a great idea. Coun. Bill Yoachim said the million dollar donation was amazing and he looks forward to where he can be of support.