Sturgis approves ordinance allowing volunteer fire department to charge for service

The Sturgis City council unanimously approved a revision to allow the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) to bill and recover costs from those receiving the benefit of its services. Pictured is the EMS building where the department’s operations and equipment are located. Pioneer photo by Tim Potts

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STURGIS — The Sturgis City Council Monday unanimously approved a revision to Title 9 — Fire Prevention and Regulation, which will allow the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department (SVFD) to bill and recover costs from those receiving the benefit of its services. 

Historically, the Sturgis Fire Department has not billed for its services unless the fire or incident had been deemed negligent. Prior to the latest revision to Title 9, for the fire department to bill for services, the city manager or his designee and/or the city council had to deem it necessary. The rate schedule had to be set by the city manager each year and used FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) rates for equipment and manpower. 

This amendment to Ordinance 2019-1 grants the SVFD authority that will allow it to bill for service without having to seek specific permission from the city to do so. The rate schedule that will be used by the fire department will be the same used by the state of South Dakota in its contract with volunteer fire departments that fight fires on state or federal lands. This is the only change proposed to Title 9 with this ordinance. 

The budget impact is projected to provide a small increase in revenue to the SVFD. The first reading of the change was discussed at the Dec. 17 meeting, and with the approval of the second reading, the ordinance become effective in 20 days, unless referred by the public. 

After a review of a homeowner’s insurance policy, it appears the coverage for most fire calls would be $500, and the insurance company will only pay with a proper invoice from the fire department. 

The text reads as follows: 9.04.19 Fire Service Billing and Authority to Recover Costs, “The Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department while under contract with the City, is authorized to seek and obtain reimbursement for any and all costs it has incurred in providing public safety services from any party receiving such services or any party obligated to provide reimbursement for any of those services.  Such reimbursement is specifically authorized against any property owner, vehicle owner, insurance carrier of other party or person having an obligation to provide partial or complete repayment of such costs.”  

The members of the fire department serve the community of Sturgis, as well as a 580-square-mile area of Meade and Lawrence counties. The response area includes Sturgis, the Fort Meade VA Medical Complex, Fort Meade Recreation Area, Bear Butte State Park, and the northern edge of the Black Hills National Forest. 

The department serves a primary population of 13,000 and provides mutual aid to more than 25,000 people in Meade and Lawrence counties. 

The SVFD is a nonprofit organization composed of volunteers who work to ensure the safety of those who live in its response area. 

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