Saturday, May 22, 2010

San Luis Obispo County Grand jury: Search and Rescue should be allowed to raise funds

The San Luis Obispo County grand jury has concluded that the county's Search and Rescue teams should be allowed to hold fundraisers to equip its volunteers if the county can't pay for the equipment.

In a report released last week, the grand jury said SAR members receive no payment for their services and also have to pay for their equipment, uniforms and the cost of the training. Because of the specialized nature of the various SAR teams, such as mountain bike, canine or medical teams, equipment can get expensive fast.

The SLO County Sheriff's Department, which organizes the SAR team, provides mileage reimbursement. The county's 2010 budget allots $35,277 to the sheriff's department to divide between SAR, the Dive Team and the Sheriff's Posse. But the Sheriff's Department does not allow fundraising unless a specific need has been identified and permission has been granted by management.

Further, the grand jury report states, management has said that SAR funding requests have been met by the sheriff's department and they are unaware of any unmet needs.

But in addition to SAR members having to buy their own uniforms, equipment and training, the unit currently has no four-wheel-drive vehicle for use by the Sheriff's liaison for off-road situations or towing equipment.

According to the report, the Sheriff's Department provides funds when available from special sources such as off-highway motor fines for the purchase of items such as all-terrain vehicles, radios, trucks and equipment trailers. Funding is approved based on priorities identified within the Sheriff's auxiliary units, but this funding is no longer assured due to recent budget cuts...

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