Garfield County search and rescue program gets additional funding

Alex Zorn

Garfield County Search and Rescue dog handler Greg Yost and his young shepherd dog Elcha take part in a week long training exercise held in various locations across Garfield County in September.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Garfield County will show its support of its volunteer search-and-rescue program by granting more than $41,000 toward its operations in 2019. That amount, awarded earlier this week by the county commissioners, reflects a slight increase from the $38,000 initially budgeted, as utilities costs and the lease rate have increased.

With offices on Airport Road in Rifle, the lease is expected to increase 6 percent for 2019, according to materials presented to the commissioners. The organization is also looking at a 5 percent increase on utilities alone from what was initially requested for 2019.

While $35,794 was requested by Search and Rescue earlier in November, Garfield County Finance Director Theresa Wagenman said the county budgeted $38,000 for the program.

The commissioners unanimously agreed to the additional grant funding at their Nov. 13 meeting.

Commissioner John Martin spoke in favor of keeping the Garfield County operation in business.

“They do a great service for us, and they might be busy this year,” Martin said.

Added Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, “If we had to man that ourselves, we would be adding 10 employees or more to our staff. I want to say thank you to Garfield County Search and Rescue for the work you do.”

Tom Ice, president and member of GarCo Search and Rescue for over 14 years, said the program has around 45 regular volunteers, all of whom are snowmobile, technical rescue and ice rescue certified to help rescue those who find themselves in trouble in the back country.

He said the minimum requirement for volunteers to stay on the active roster is that they must complete four missions a year, four trainings a year, eight hours of administration help, which can include equipment cleanup, and more.

“We’re made up of Garfield County residents with members 18 to 80 years old,” Ice explained. “Most of us are fully employed and have full-time jobs. We’ve got lawyers, construction workers, accountants and more on the team.”

He said there have been around 40 missions completed in 2018, as the program can run anywhere from 30 to 70 call outs.

Volunteers did a number of river missions in 2018 as well as a number of calls to the crowded Hanging Lake area in Glenwood Canyon.

“We’re always looking for new members,” Ice added.

Those who want to sign up to be a volunteer for Garfield County Search and Rescue can contact administrators through garfield to set up an interview and potential training sessions.

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