Agreement reached between Vallario, Garfield County search and rescue |

Agreement reached between Vallario, Garfield County search and rescue

John Colson
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado
Sheriff Lou Vallario

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – A new agreement has been reached between law enforcement and volunteer members of the Garfield County’s search and rescue [GSAR] team, and old animosities seem to have been left behind.

Sheriff Lou Vallario and GSAR President Mike Alsdorf presented the contract, which is to be reviewed annually and clearly spells out the relations between the two entities, to the board of county commissioners on July 12.

“In concept, it is typical of a lot of search And rescue teams in the state,” said Alsdorf of the contract.

The GSAR, founded in 1977, has 28 active members and six probationary members. Each member completes more than 60 hours of special training, called SARTECH II, as well as other training operations to learn about land and water search and rescue techniques; first aid, avalanche rescue and more.

According to the sheriff’s office, in 2009 the GSAR was involved in more than 2,700 hours of search and rescue operations, and conducted more than 240 hours of public information and training seminars for the public.

The new contract, among other things, requires that the sheriff’s office be responsible for the maintenance and repairs to all equipment owned by the sheriff’s office, but used by the GSAR on missions.

The contract also calls for GSAR members to be responsible for maintenance and repair of any of their own private vehicles and equipment that they use on missions.

In addition, the agreement directs that the sheriff’s office will provide some funding to the GSAR, starting at $22,000 per year – but is subject to changes in the future.

“The lion’s share of that will be used for training,” Alsdorf said hopefully, although he admitted that some of the money will go toward operating costs, which could eat into the training budget.

He told commissioners that the $22,000 figure is “based on old information.” Given the added responsibilities that GSAR has under the new agreement, the amount needed is likely to be closer to $30,000 per year, Alsdorf said.

Vallario, noting that the GSAR expenses were “very low” so far in 2010, told the BOCC, “I think there’s got to be contributions from both sides of the table.”

Alsdorf said the group will continue holding fundraisers to bring in needed money, such as the July 24 ORV Poker Run in the Meadow Lake area of the Flat Tops [for details, email or call 970-309-4609, or 970-948-8525.]

“Yeah, we’ll have to keep doing those” for needs that are not covered by county funding, said Alsdorf.

Still, pledged Vallario to the BOCC, “We’ll keep an eye on it. We’re not going to let these guys run dry.”

As for a controversial, 37-page application form demanded by Vallario of the volunteers last year, that prompted five GSAR members to quit the organization due to concerns that Vallario was violating their rights to privacy, both Alsdorf and Vallario said that fight is over.

The GSAR will submit all prospective volunteer’s names and identifying information to Vallario for a background check, Alsdorf said, but “we don’t have to fill out that application.”

And Vallario said that is fine with him, noting, “We have to recognize the professionalism and great service that they do,” which includes permitting the organization to keep its house in order and free of anyone of questionable moral character or with a criminal record.

The contract, which runs from January through December, will be in force for the remainder of 2010, subject to negotiations that are expected to begin in the fall.

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