La Plata County Search and Rescue soon will finally have a place to call home.
“I didn’t know it could get better than Christmas, but this is pretty darn close,” Ron Corkish, president of La Plata County Search and Rescue, told La Plata County commissioners Tuesday.
For years, the county’s Search and Rescue team has been based out of a garage-type facility off Florida Road in Durango, which officials say was inadequate for the crew’s needs.
For the past year or so, however, plans were in the works to house Search and Rescue within the National Guard armory building in Bodo Industrial Park, which is currently being renovated for about $4.2 million for the La Plata County Sheriff’s Office.
Those plans were made official Tuesday after county commissioners unanimously approved the project.
The new headquarters will provide 2,626 square feet for Search and Rescue on the northwest corner of the armory building, according to county records.
The project was originally budgeted for $500,000, but bids came back much higher than that amount, County Manager Chuck Stevens said.
As a result, the project was slated to be scrapped. But at the last minute, Stevens said, additional funds came to the county through the “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” fund, a federal payout to compensate a government for a portion of property tax revenue lost because of lands being exempt from taxes, such as public land.
Because nearly half of La Plata County is comprised of federal lands, it received $818,339.
The additional funds allowed the county to agree to pay about $774,000 for the Search and Rescue office. Search and Rescue will provide an additional $65,000 from money raised during fundraisers and charity events.
“It’s really a long time coming,” said Commissioner Gwen Lachelt.
Corkish said the new offices will allow the all-volunteer crew to facilitate missions out of the space, house equipment and have a better headquarters for communication.
Speaking to The Durango Herald after the meeting, Corkish said Search and Rescue has about 98 volunteers who go into the field to take part in missions. An additional 72 people are available to help respond in larger emergency situations, when shelters and call centers are required.
He said Search and Rescue participates in about 65 missions a year, which include mutual-aid incidents in seven surrounding counties. About one-third of those missions occur in La Plata County, he said. In 2018, the team logged 8,711 volunteer hours.
“I am just so proud of our team,” he said.