After calling a few other buildings home, Greenlee County Search and Rescue is about to have a place of its own.

“We didn’t have a facility; we kind of bounced around,” said Search and Rescue Captain Pete Hoynes. “We started out at the Sheriff’s Office, then went to the Elks Club. Now we hold our meetings at the Greenlee Country Club.”

Now, thanks to a land donation by the county and a United Way of Graham and Greenlee Counties grant, that’s going to change.

A new Search and Rescue building is going up at the Greenlee County Airport.

“It’s the logical place for us,” said Hoynes.

Forming a 501©(3) nonprofit called the Greenlee County Search and Rescue Funding Corporation, Hoynes and Search and Rescue Secretary/Treasurer Tom Powers successfully applied for a United Way grant.

“It (the corporation) was formed so we could get employee contributions from FMI plus apply for the grant,” said Hoynes.

In January 2018 United Way awarded the group $165,000. Hoynes said it took longer — until mid-2019 — for the county to approve donating the land for the building. In turn, he said, the corporation will donate the building to the county when it’s finished.

“It’s going to be a big step for Search and Rescue, a good facility for us to do training in.”

The building will have a small kitchen, a restroom with a shower, an office space, classroom areas, screens for training videos and eventually a base radio. Search and Rescue can also store small vehicles and other equipment in the 2,400-square foot building.

“I think we’ll mainly be done within a month,” said Hoynes. “We’ll be putting a sign up in front and we’ll have to put sidewalks in. We’ve already had a meeting here. It’ll also be available for the Sheriff’s Office to do their training.”

“We could set it up as our command center in case we have flooding or things like that,” said Powers. “We’re actually putting in phone wire; in fact, Pete was just working on that. We’ll also have cell phones and Sheriff’s Office radios so we can communicate with everybody.”

Sheriff Tim Sumner is pleased about the building as well.

“This is going to be a great resource for Greenlee County. I’m very appreciative of Tom and Pete,” Sumner said. “We greatly appreciate those who gave money and United Way for helping us out with enough money to do this building and get some equipment that’s been long overdue.

“All 15 county sheriffs are statutorily tasked with search and rescue and, particularly here, we just don’t have the funding for all the things Search and Rescue needs,” Sumner said.

Hoynes said the grant also helped buy rope rescue equipment, ATVs and side-by-sides, radios and a raft for swift water rescues.

“We spent a lot of money on training, paying people to come in and train and sending people to classes,” he said.

Search and Rescue also puts on programs at schools.

“I found a group that’s called Hug A Tree, formed after a little girl was lost in California,” said Hoynes. “They put this program together for kids up to 4th grade, to train them what to do if they get lost. That’s why it’s called Hug A Tree; they want kids to stay in one spot, not move around. We put this program on at Morenci Elementary School and we got 500 kids. It was a pretty exciting thing.”

Sumner thanked United Way and everyone who gave to it, Hoynes and Powers, Search and Rescue Coordinator for the Sheriff’s Office Ronnie Manuz, the county supervisors for accepting the building and authorizing county facilities and road departments to work on it, and everyone who volunteers with Search and Rescue.

Sumner added that Search and Rescue can always use volunteers and that anyone interested in volunteering can contact the Greenlee County Sheriff’s Office at 928-865-4149.

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