STURGIS — A bit less than one-third of the money needed to keep the city of Sturgis from redrawing its Sturgis Ambulance Service response area has been raised through the Sturgis Ambulance Fund.
Andy Hollander and Anne Bodman spearheaded efforts to raise the funds during this year’s Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
The two, along with campground owner and Sturgis resident Ross Lamphere, reported to the Sturgis City Council Tuesday that more than $8,400 has been raised for the fund.
The Sturgis Ambulance Service has served the area outside the Sturgis city limits and east into central Meade County for years, but on April 15, the city council voted to redraw the boundaries of its service response area, leaving out some rural Meade County residents effective July 15.
City officials have said the city can no longer shoulder the costs of providing ambulance service to an area where residents do not pay to fund the service.
With the looming deadline to find long-term funding solutions for ambulance service to those who live outside Sturgis city limits mere hours away, the Sturgis City Council on July 15 voted to grant an extension of the service boundary redrawing.
Property and business owners had asked for additional time to raise funds as well as develop a plan to enable them to continuously raise the needed funds for ambulance service.
The implementation was delayed until Dec. 31, if the property and business owners were able to provide $30,000 (half of what the city says it loses in a year by serving those areas) as well as a detailed and implementable plan to raise the needed $60,000 annually at its Nov. 18, council meeting. In addition, the council asked the leaders of the group to provide a monthly update to the council at the first council meeting of every month.
Hollander told council members that in early August, the Sturgis Ambulance Fund was established as part of the Clover Fund at First Interstate Bank. The sole purpose was to raise donations for the continuation of ambulance service outside the city limits of Sturgis.
The group sent out collection buckets during the rally. There were 40 collection sites which collected about $8,400.
All of that money has been deposited at First Interstate Bank, Hollander said. The remaining 26 out of 40 collection sites are expected to send in their funds in the coming weeks.
Lamphere said many campgrounds have contributed in that $8,400 total.
“There are a number of others, who for varying reasons, have kept their money to themselves at this point,” Lamphere said.
In a letter sent to Sturgis City Council members, Hollander said that at the Aug. 21 meeting of the Rural Sturgis Ambulance Group, several people did tell the group they had collected funds for the ambulance fundraiser, but would not be currently disclosing how much they had collected, who the funds were collected from and what was their intended use of those funds.
“It was also not disclosed who held those funds, where they were being held, or under what circumstances they would be releasing those funds and to whom they would be released,” he said in the letter. “It was and remains our assumption that anyone who has collected funds intended to support the Sturgis Ambulance in responding to calls outside the city limits will quickly release all funds collected to the RSAG so the RSAG has full control over all of its finances and the RSAG knows how much they still need to raise to meet the timelines agreed to with the City of Sturgis.”
Whether some campground owners are looking to use the funds to contract with another ambulance service is uncertain.
Brian Hambek, executive director of the Spearfish Ambulance Service, said he had been contacted by at least five campground owners prior to this year’s 79th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally about providing ambulance service.
But, Hambek said he had not yet been contacted by any campground owners about providing service next year during the 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
Lamphere said there could be geographic pockets that want to go out on their own concerning ambulance service, but in his opinion, the Rural Sturgis Ambulance Group needs to remain cohesive and include the entire area.
“I may have the chance to be one of those defectors, but I’m not going to do that. I think we need to be a whole response area,” Lamphere said.
Sturgis Mayor Mark Carstensen asked if discussions at meetings of the Rural Sturgis Ambulance Group have focused on moving foward as an ambulance district.
Lamphere said that has been discussed and will be discussed at future meetings.
“I don’t know if we will be successful in raising all $60,000 or not. I am hopeful that by the next report we will be well down the road with our petitions,” he said. “And I hope that will persuade the council that we do have a long-term objective here to continue ambulance operation for the total response area.”
Beginning this week, the Rural Sturgis Ambulance Group will meet to start stuffing envelopes to go to the roughly 4,000 people who live in the rural area outside Sturgis city limits to ask them for donations to the ambulance fund as well.
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