As of 8:30 p.m., Thursday, the Clay County Search and Rescue (CCSR) board of directors announced it would close its doors and remain out of service until further notice due to a lock of funds to pay for health/medical/life insurance and workman's comp along with vehicle liability insurance.
The organization also owes approximately $500 in outstanding basic utilities and other miscellaneous bills, with monthly expenditures being approximately $700-750.
According to Indiana statute, CCSR is required to cover the 15 active volunteers with insurance, of which more than $2,500 in premiums were due Wednesday.
"We made arrangements to pay half of the premiums, and we did, thinking we would be OK financially. Then we were notified we would have to pay the entire premium amount, making us short," CCSR Board Member Dave Watson told The Brazil Times Friday afternoon.
Although the county provides some financial support to the CCSR, most of the funds necessary to cover the daily operating costs come from donations.
Clay County Auditor Mary Jo Alumbaugh told The Brazil Times the vehicle used by Search and Rescue is owned and insured by the county.
"The county also has funds appropriated in the Emergency Management Fund for an Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which is for annual housing of the vehicle," Alumbaugh said. "In 2010, the amount was $6,000, and it is $7,000 for 2011, which will not be paid out until a claim is made for it."
Watson said the department was grateful the county covers the mortgage payment and members were working hard coming up with idea on how to raise the necessary funds to get the doors open and CCSR back into service.
CCSR has responded to approximately 400-450 requests for assistance so far this year, including help with medical runs, accidents and extrication assistance, mutual aid for other local emergency and law enforcement departments, traffic control at community events, storm clean up and various other calls.
"If we were toned out, we responded," Watson said.
CCSR closing has caused a few adjustments in how emergency service departments will be dispatched to ensure adequate mutual aid among departments in Clay County.
"(Clay County E911 Dispatch) has taken steps to organize departments for adequate coverage for safety reasons and for the public," Clay County Sheriff Mike Heaton said. "There might be a slight delay because a few of the departments will have to go out of their townships to help other agencies, but its not going to be serious."
Despite not having certification for medical situations, the Brazil City Fire Department has notified the county they are willing to extend its coverage area to assist on additional runs.
"The county, as well as other volunteer fire departments, have been made aware that we are more than willing to assist on calls outside of the city if it is requested," BCFD Chief Jim Smith said.
Smith added there are added liability risks in his department expanding its coverage area, but with the Clay County Mutual Aid Agreement in place, it is something that all departments are prepared for.
"There isn't a huge difference between this and situations where departments are on standby because a department has equipment being down for maintenance or other reasons, but there is a higher state of awareness," he told The Brazil Times. "However, at the same time, if we are outside the city assisting on a run and a fire or emergency situation occurs within the corporate limits, we would be in a situation of having to call in additional personnel to make sure the city is protected because that is our main jurisdiction."
"If there is an accident in Dick Johnson Township, for example, we will have to head that direction because of our training in extrication, which is something Search and Rescue also has," Bennett said. "We are more than willing to assist, but the added costs of fuel and wear and tear on the vehicles and firefighters increase liability concerns."
CCSR board members hope the community will realize it's a small price to pay for the services provided by the volunteer organization.
Tough economic times and ever-increasing expenditures have hit the organization hard.
"A large portion of our donations used to come during the Covered Bridge Festival when we did collections at the intersections," Watson said. "The ordinance that stopped that hit our department pretty hard, but we can overcome."
Watson said members are placing collection jars at local businesses in the community to raise donations.
"The jars have our logos on them, so people will know their donations will go for CCSR," Watson said. "We are also working on other ideas too."
Two local banks are accepting donations on the organizations behalf.
People can stop by both branches of Riddell National Bank and the local Harris Bank branch and request to make a donation to the CCSR accounts at the respective banks.
"If people want to send a check to CCSR directly, they can send it in care of the department at 525 East National Ave., Brazil," Watson said. "We are also going to update people about our fundraising efforts on our Facebook page."
Without the necessary insurance, Watson said the decision to close was hard, but the volunteer organization could not continue to operate in good conscious.
"We're down right now, but we're not out," Watson said. "A lot of people are talking right now and hopefully, with the community's help, we can raise enough money so we can get the doors opened again."