Sturgis extends ambulance service to rural areas

The Rural Ambulance Group spokesperson, Ross Lamphere, presented a check to Shawn Fischer of the Sturgis Ambulance Service making up the balance of the $30,000 the city had requested to retain ambulance service in rural areas east of Sturgis. Pioneer photo by Deb Holland

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STURGIS — Rural areas east of Sturgis in Meade County will continue to be within the response area of the Sturgis Ambulance Service — at least for the next six months. 

The Sturgis City Council voted Monday to delay redrawing the boundaries of the city’s ambulance service response area because a group formed to raise funds for the service met the city’s mandate of paying $30,000 by Monday, and providing a proposal/agreement on how the money will be raised and collected in the coming years.

The city initially received a check for just over $10,000. The Rural Ambulance Group spokesperson, Ross Lamphere, presented the second check making up the balance on Monday. 

Lamphere told the Sturgis City Council that the group is well on the way to gathering enough signatures to put the issue of an ambulance tax district to a vote of the rural residents.

Rural voters last December defeated forming an ambulance tax district by a vote of 199-171.

Lamphere said there are 26 people carrying petitions to gather the needed signatures. To bring the ambulance tax district to a vote, the group needs 257 valid signatures. As of Monday, six petitions have been turned in to the county auditor with 127 validated signatures, he said.

“I am confident that we will reach our goal well before the Dec. 20 deadline we have set for petitions to be in,” Lamphere said.

If the needed signatures are received by that time, an election on an ambulance tax district would be set for March 23, 2020. 

Then if the tax district passes, another election would be held to elect a five-member board of directors of the new ambulance tax district.

The Sturgis City Council could then determine to extend the service again until the potential new Ambulance Board decides if they would like to contract with the city of Sturgis, another ambulance service, or start their own ambulance service, Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said.

“Given the significant progress that has been made by the property owners, we recommend that you delay the implementation of the revised response area until March 31, 2020” Ainslie told the city council.

Sturgis City Council member Terry Keszler said he encouraged his fellow board members to proceed with caution.

“The petitions have not been certified. And, none of us know how the vote is going to go. I feel we have to have a little protection,” he said.

Keszler’s motion was to hold off implementing the revised ambulance service response area until April 7, 2020. He chose that date because it gives the city council a meeting date following the election to see if they need to do anything further should the vote fail. It passed unanimously. 

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. 

Then, on July 15, the Sturgis City Council voted to grant an extension of the service boundary redrawing until Dec. 31, if property and business owners residing in the service area 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. 

City officials have long 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.

Lamphere said that fundraising for the ambulance service has not been an easy task.

“If these efforts are to be successful, we need more than your verbal support. We request that no more monies be raised until the district is formed and money is being collected for the ambulance district,” he said.

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