Work hasn’t stopped for Garfield County Search and Rescue
November 11, 2009
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Garfield County Search and Rescue volunteers are still responding, despite an Oct. 30 deadline for volunteers to turn in an updated application in order to remain on the team.
According to Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario, his office and the Search and Rescue board are working on a memorandum of understanding, agreement or contract similar to the relationships of other sheriff’s offices and search and rescue teams throughout the state.
The terms of the contract, which is based on some examples of other counties, is being finalized, Vallario wrote in an e-mail message to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent.
Garfield County Search and Rescue Inc. president Tom Ice said Tuesday that the nonprofit and the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office are working through the situation, and he is optimistic a resolution will be reached allowing the nonprofit to continue working with the sheriff’s office on search and rescue missions.
“We are working diligently with the sheriff’s office to try and work it out,” Ice said. “Things are looking better than they did a month ago, but we still have a ways to go.”
Volunteers for Search and Rescue have been defiant regarding a new application process. The sheriff’s office requested that current members fill out a nine-page application that asked about qualifications, but also requested information about criminal, work, credit and medical history. That application has more recently been reduced to a seven-page application, and negotiations are still in the works according to sources with Search and Rescue.
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It is unclear as to the status of the proposed 39-page application for new volunteers.
Both applications required a computer voice stress analysis or lie detector test, a drug screening and extensive background investigation.
Ice said the Oct. 30 deadline passed and that the Search and Rescue members are still responding to calls – most recently on Nov. 7 – when contacted by the sheriff’s office. According to Ice, the nonprofit has retained 27 members, while five former members, including former president David Pruett, have resigned over the new requirements.
Since then, former vice president Lanny Grant moved into the president’s position after Pruett’s resignation but subsequently stepped down from the post as well, citing personal reasons. Grant remains a member of the team, Ice said.
The sheriff’s office could not say exactly how many individuals have complied with the new application process, but said it has maintained a sufficient level of volunteers.
“At this time the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office has retained a great many highly committed and courageous volunteers who continue to serve Garfield County and its visitors on a daily basis,” wrote Garfield County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Tanny McGinnis.
Vallario did not know how long it would be until a draft of the new agreement is complete, but he said he is certain a resolution is in sight.
“What I am certain of is that in the end, SAR members will be recognized as the ‘professional’ volunteers that they are,” Vallario wrote.
He said that the new agreement will ultimately give Search and Rescue more responsibility to manage their needs and membership via its 501(c)3 status as a nonprofit corporation, but that he will still have the final say as to which volunteers will be able to respond on authorized missions, per the sheriff’s office background checks.