BUTTE - 15-90 Search and Rescue has served Butte-Silver Bow and the surrounding communities for 58 years.
But, with outdated equipment and training, it may not last long. So the group is requesting a mill levy to help fund their organization.
15-90 Search and Rescue Commander Brad Belke — who has been a member of the organization for 42 years — 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 raised money through raffle tickets, concert tickets, and a bucket drive. They also 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.
For example, Lewis and Clark’s Search and Rescue team receives $200,000 annually while Madison County receives $146,000 each year and Gallatin County Search and Rescue receives $1.1 million annually.
Much of the equipment used by 15-90 Search and Rescue 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 — such as EMT and 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 Butte-Silver Bow Council of Commissioners will vote in their next meeting to see if the issue is placed on the 2022 ballots.