The McDonough County Board Finance Committee decided against providing funding for the sheriff department’s dive rescue team.
“I feel like overall it’s a good decision,” said Sheriff Rick VanBrooker.
“When the dive team was first formed 35 years ago, it was the only dive team in the area. Now there are two: one in Fulton County, one in Jacksonville.”
The sheriff said McDonough County can call in one of those teams if needed. He acknowledged every minute counts in an emergency but felt the dive rescue team’s mission primarily focused on recovery rather than rescue.
“If a person goes underwater, they have three minutes to survive. And it’s going to be very rare that the team would be up and running and there. It would just be impossible,” VanBrooker said.
Deputy John Carson was in charge of the unit until his recent retirement. Carson was the only member of the sheriff’s department on the team.
VanBrooker put the program on hiatus after Carson’s retirement, saying he wanted to assess it. The sheriff feels it would cost a lot – maybe $60,000 -- to restart the unit, update the equipment, and then maintain the gear.
He said the team was called out just a few times per year and some of those were to assist other counties.
VanBrooker said McDonough’s unit used publicly and privately owned equipment. He said the county-owned equipment will be sold.