The wonderful publicity our community received via the August 19th TSN broadcast included, as its finale, a shot of the SportsCentre hosts boarding Windermere Fire Departments new ice-rescue vehicle: a hovercraft.
As the sole fund-raiser for this life-saving vehicle, I have enjoyed the unanimous input of numerous people congratulating me on helping to make our community a safer place to be.
Last week the hovercraft received a Jeers in the Pioneer, stating that in that readers opinion, it is a huge waste of money.
I assume the reader is referring to their money being wasted. I am pleased to use this comment as an opportunity to explain the funding to the public, and assure them that their money was not wasted.
A mere 3 per cent of the funds raised came from Regional District of East Kootenay Areas F and G and the District of Invermere, which equates to about 39 cents per house or condo (those who pay taxes). The next largest donor block was from local businesses, generous individuals, and the Kinsmen Club of Windermere Valley. Finally, Kootenay East MLA Bill Bennett, who personally related a story of how he, at one time, went through the ice in a snowmobile, approved a significant sum of money from the BC Gaming Commission, whose source of funds is commercial gaming operations. In 2011-2012 they distributed about $135 million to community organizations.
We raised funds to cover maintenance, and for ongoing operations for the foreseeable future.
So thats where the money came from, and I thank all those who donated, including my son-in-law, whose life was saved on the ice on Lake Windermere at a risk to the lives of the first responders. He donated $7,000 of his own hard-earned money.
Over a 10-year period on Lake Windermere, there are approximately 30 to 50 callouts for ice rescues, each involving the risk of life to the wonderful first responders our community is fortunate to have at our service. So over this period, between victims and emergency staff, the families of about 300 people could get a call that their loved one lost his or her life, a life that might have been saved with this ice rescue vehicle. I doubt they would think that the readers 39 cents was a waste of money.
I thank all those who generously donated money from their own pockets to this valuable vehicle. If anyone feels their tax-based contribution was a huge waste of money and would like their 39 cents back, please contact me, show me a copy of your tax bill, and I will refund your 39 cents with a cheque from my personal bank account and pray that you and your loved ones never need the hovercraft.
Personally, I hope it never gets called into action. That can be accomplished by responsible on-ice practices.