Funding drastically cut for Lee's Summit water rescue team, now asking for donations

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LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. -- The Lee's Summit Underwater Rescue and Recovery team has been helping local law enforcement agencies around the metro since the 1960's.

Now the group is struggling to find the funds to keep helping after a huge budget cut.

Director Brian Meinershagen said the nonprofit already works on a shoestring budget and is now looking for other ways to help support the organization.

“Up until this year, we’ve received a large grant from [Jackson] County that has allowed us to cover a little bit over 50% of our operating costs and budget," Meinershagen said. "For 2020, we have been notified that we are not going to be receiving that, so we have a little bit of a funding shortfall.”

This is the first year this has happened to the group.

Meinershagen believes a missed grant application, never enforced in the past, resulted in the cut. He also said the cut came with no warning.

"We’ve received this grant for a number of years now, and we have always followed the same process year after year -- and this year was no different," Meinershagen said. "But this year is apparently a year where the county has had to take a higher stance on those documents and has decided we are disqualified."

Even with the grant, the challenge of keeping up with the growing list of needed equipment, upkeep of vehicles and training is proving to be more difficult.

Over the past 50 years, the water rescue team has been linked to some of the metro's most high-profile cases.

"Probably one of the most large investigations was the disappearance of Toni Anderson," said Sgt. Benjamin Caldwell with the Kansas City Police Department.

The all-volunteer dive team provides specially trained expertise and assists local law enforcement with more than 60 cases per year.

"For an investigation standpoint, it's imperative to be able to recover these items, and we can't do so without water rescue units,” Caldwell said.

The team is now working with reserved funding and planning future fundraising efforts. If you would like to donate or volunteer, click here.



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