The Utah County Search and Rescue Team has prided itself in being a volunteer organization and in remaining independent from county government.
When someone offered a donation to help offset the group's expenses, it would say thanks but no thanks.But Lt. Richard Casto, who took over as the county emergency management director in June, does not believe team members should continue to subsidize the county by providing their own search-and-rescue equipment. Because the training and the equipment needed for the team to be properly outfitted is expensive, Casto asked the County Commission to include $50,000 in next year's budget.
"I don't think it's too much to ask the county to provide the resources and the equipment necessary for us to do our job," Casto said.
But the county - facing more requests for money than what is available - turned a deaf ear to Casto's request and did not include funding for the search-and-rescue team in the 1991 budget. Casto, therefore, is changing past policy and now says the search-and-rescue team must rely on donations to survive.
And it did not take long for someone who appreciates the service to step forward and get the fund raising started.
Tuesday, John and Jan Izatt of Clearfield donated an undisclosed amount of money to the team for purchasing new equipment. The Izatts' son, Jonathan, died from a fall on the mountains above Sundance in September. The money came from a life insurance policy.
"We knew that when we received that insurance money some of it had to go toward helping this cause," Jan Izatt said.
The Izatts said the search-and-rescue team acted quickly and efficiently when it responded to their son's accident. They said team members did everything possible for their son. But they also know members used their own equipment, some of which is old and becoming faulty.
"We don't want anything to happen to anybody while they are being rescued because of something being wrong with the equipment. I have compassion for these men and respect the job they are doing," Jan Izatt said.
Chris Reed, Spanish Fork, has been a member of the search-and-rescue team for 12 years. He said that for most members the excitement and camaraderie of being a team member is worth the costs.
But the cost of modern equipment is more than most team members can afford, and many have concerns about the liability of using their own equipment.
"It hurts sometimes when you don't have the house you want or the furniture you want because you're putting your money into the search-and-rescue team before spending it on your family," Reed said.
Reed said he spends about $3,000 annually for equipment and training. He owns the scuba gear, radio equipment and medical equipment that he uses when called on a rescue. He said the team needs a hovercraft for rescues on Utah Lake when it's frozen or the water level is low.
"I've been looking to pick one up on my own, but something like that cost about $10,000, and I just have not been able to afford it," Reed said.
Casto said that if an accident occurred on Utah Lake today the county would not be able to respond because it does not have an airboat or hovercraft. If a hiking accident occurred involving several hikers the search-and-rescue team would be short on equipment.
"Our ability to respond to those calls has been jeopardized because of a lack of funding," Casto said. "There is equipment being used that should not be used, but when you have someone dangling from a cliff with a 200-foot fall you have to use the equipment that is available."