BUTTE—For 58 years, 15-90 search and rescue has served Butte-Silver Bow and the surrounding communities. But, with outdated equipment and training, it may not last long.
15-90 Search and Rescue is requesting one mill levy to help fund their organization.
Brad Belke, the 15-90 Search and Rescue Commander, has been a member of the organization for 42 years. He says asking the council of commissioners for help is the last thing he wanted to do, but the organization has run out of time.
"What we have done over the past two decades is operate search and rescue on an annual budget of less than $20,000 a year," said Belke.
15-90 search and rescue has fundraised through raffle tickets, concert tickets, and a bucket drive. They receive a small annual stipend from the sheriff’s office and occasional corporate and federal grants, but it isn’t enough.
"An amount that is significantly less than what we need and also less than the budget of other nearby search and rescue organizations," said Belke.
Compared to other county search and rescue teams:
- Lewis and Clarke’s search and Rescue receives $200,000 annually
- Madison County receives $146,000 annually
- Gallatin County receives $1.1 million annually
Much of the equipment used is bought and maintained by individual members. Some equipment is received second-hand.
"Two of the vehicles we operate right now are more than 30 years old," said Belke.
The cost has become too much for individual members. Outside training, like EMT/ first aid classes, has become too expensive, and members had to let certification lapse because they couldn’t afford classes.
With a mill levy, the organization would be able to take advantage of new technology and classes.
"If we had the funds to purchase new technology, not only vehicles but other equipment, we could provide better emergency response," said Belke.
The council of commissioners will vote in their next meeting to see if the issue is placed on the 2022 ballots.