Search and rescue team funding bill could soon be headed to Arizona Governor's desk
PHOENIX - The Arizona Senate Appropriations Committee on March 28 voted to approve a bill that would fund search and rescue equipment used by sheriff’s departments in rural counties.
The lifesaving equipment is desperately needed as winter storms and flooding have wreaked havoc up north – like in Yavapai County.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and its volunteers who've been working nonstop since flooding and evacuations a week ago say the passage of this bill would be a game changer.
House Bill 2554 was given yet another green light as the committee approved the plan to fund search and rescue equipment used by sheriff’s departments. Republican State Rep. Selina Bliss of Prescott introduced the bill.
"Equipment wears down, it breaks, it needs to be replaced and that’s where we were literally taking out duct tape and patching our stuff together to keep our missions going," Bliss said.
In the last week alone, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office has been extremely busy dealing with flooding, evacuations and water rescues.
READ MORE: HB 2554
"You name it we do it, flood evacuations, fire evacuations, which we are getting ready for. Last week, just as an example, in 36 hours, we did three different flood evacuations," volunteer Bill Pratt said.
All volunteers pay out of pocket for their equipment.
The money allocated in the bill would go toward ropes, four-by-fours, swift water rescue boats, firefighting equipment, search dog training, among other things.
"We are volunteers, it’s not a cheap way to volunteer, but he’s a special dog. He has talent and that’s where I want to go," Ann Schmidt, a volunteer said.
Beginning next year and each year after, the bill would allocate a million dollars split between counties from the general fund.
If passed Coconino, Mohave, and Pinal counties would get 21%. 18% percent would go to Cochise, 13.5% to Yavapai, 2.5% to Gila, and finally Navajo and Greenlee counties would get 0.5% of the funding. Leftovers would go to other counties.
"It is significant. It really helps us at the kinds of expenses that we are confronted with on not only an annual basis, but almost a daily basis," Pratt explained.
There are still a few hurdles and checks, but the bill's sponsor is confident it will be heading to the governor's desk.