Local News

KSAR asks for equipment back from town

By Katy Savage

Killington Search and Rescue (KSAR) wants its equipment back after it was deemed unusable and not up to standard by new Fire Chief Chris Lahart. 

KSAR leaders formally requested its climbing equipment, helmets, toboggan and other items in an April 6 email to Town Manager Chet Hagenbarth. 

The request came after several KSAR volunteers quit the organization last month, alleging LaHart created a toxic work environment. KSAR members sent a letter to the Select Board in March, asking the town to make KSAR an organization independent of the fire department. Town leaders declined KSAR’s request at a meeting last month, forcing KSAR to work with the fire chief. Many KSAR members have refused. 

One disagreement between KSAR and the chief was over the use of equipment, which LaHart had evaluated by the city of Rutland. Some of it was deemed a potential liability to the town. 

“We just want our equipment back,” KSAR leader Murray McGrath said by phone. “They can’t use it, so we can.”  

McGrath said KSAR members bought the equipment, which he estimated was worth $1,000 or more, through their own funds and fundraisers.

McGrath was unsure what capacity KSAR members would use the equipment. Discussions about how members might move forward or work elsewhere is ongoing. 

“We’re in limbo,” McGrath said. “It’s going to take time. The dust has to settle and we’ll figure out what’s going on.”

But Hagbenbarth said KSAR would not be able to form a new organization under the KSAR name. Hagenbarth sent an April 10 email to KSAR leaders, saying the town owns the KSAR name and logo. 

“The Killington Search and Rescue (KSAR) name belongs to the Town as part of the transition agreement,” Hagenbarth wrote in the email. “In addition, the corporation was adamant that the Town continue the use of the names for historical and familiarity purposes. Therefore, any new search and rescue group not associated with the Town will not be permitted use of the KSAR name or logo.” 

Hagenbarth said the town would verify what equipment may have been purchased by the town. 

“The Town will return all equipment that does not meet rescue guidelines as it will not be able to be used by the department,” Hagenbarth wrote.

Though KSAR had not requested to use the KSAR name elsewhere, the town manager “put that fire out before we could even start it,” McGrath said.

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