COSAR searching for a new home in Kelowna

Existing facility housing search and rescue service nearing end of its useful life

Central Okanagan Search and Rescue is looking for a new base of operations within the Regional District of Central Okanagan. (File photo)

The volunteers who respond to search and rescue calls are looking for the regional district to find them a new headquarters.

The Regional District of Central Okanagan board has endorsed in principle efforts to secure a new facility for COSAR (Central Okanagan Search and Rescue).

COSAR currently occupies the old two-bay Kelowna-Ellison Fire Station, located at 4680 Old Vernon Rd., which is leased by the city to the regional district, and in turn, subleased to COSAR for $1 a year.

The 3,900 square-foot facility, which includes the firehall, Quonset and sea-cam, has three years remaining on its current lease agreement, with an option for a five-year extension, but is nearing the end of its useful life, says a regional district staff report.

Upgrades or additions to the existing structure would be difficult as it would be required to meet current BC Building Code building, electrical and plumbing standards, and such renovations would not address the need for additional office, training or storage space.

A consultant’s report identified up to 12 options to address COSAR’s short0-term building needs, with regional district director engineering services David Komaike saying the best of those options is to find a 1.2-acre location within Kelowna and to explore what further building options and land availability situations might exist.

Speaking at the board meeting Tuesday (Nov. 23), Komaike said preliminary cost estimates for a new building of 4000 sq. ft. with a 600 sq. ft. equipment storage component could range from $4.8 to $5.8 million.

If the land was to be purchased to house the facility, the cost would rise to $7.8 million under current real estate market conditions.

“It is impossible to come up with an accurate cost estimate at this point because there is no building design in place or land location,” Komaike said.

He said the regional district has the capacity to help absorb additional operating costs a new facility for COSAR might pose, but any capital expenditure would require a referendum or alternate approval process approval.

READ MORE: 2021 was busiest year on record for COSAR

Komaike said staff will embark on a survey of the available building and land options for a new facility for the board’s consideration.

Luck Stack, City of Kelowna board director, suggested location for a new building might be found on existing city or regional district-owned land or within a regional park.

“In my mind, part of what COSAR does helps keep parks safe for the public so perhaps there might be an appropriate location there where purchasing land would not be required,” he suggested.

Cindy Fortin, Peachland board director, said the current facility conditions COSAR operates under are “pretty upsetting to me and I know others as well.”

“I am happy to see this go forward and would look forward to Peachland being part of the land discussions as well,” she said.

Wayne Carson, Okanagan West rural director, said splitting the facility resources into both sides of Okanagan Lake would attract greater public support.

Carson said having equipment and resources on both sides of the lake would improve response times, make better use of equipment access and possibly help recruit more volunteers.

“We have seen with having pre-hospital care on one side of the bridge just isn’t good enough anymore,” he said.

COSAR is a registered non-profit organization, operated with a volunteer base of 52 members.

One of 80 search and rescue groups across the province, COSAR is the third busiest in B.C., responding to more than 80 first responders annually and investing more than 20,000 hours a year on training, administration, logistics,

READ MORE: 2020 was busiest year on record for COSAR

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