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Back to the drawing board for ambulance funding outside of city limits


F.Ganje - May 20, 2019

STURGIS, SD – Meade County Commissioner Rod Bradley had hoped public sentiment would be further along  the path to finding a sustainable funding solution for ambulance services in parts of Meade County.  But last night’s meeting of the Meade County Citizens for Fair Emergency Services made it clear that wasn’t the case.

“It was good to get everybody together,” he observes. “I was hoping we were a little further along on having a unified front to put a plan together for a long-term funding solution that we could take back to the City of Sturgis.  But from the meeting, it’s clear there are people who still have questions and concerns.”

For well over a year, the City of Sturgis has been communicating with the Meade County Commission and residents outside of city limits, that the city-owned ambulance service was operating in the red due to non-reimbursement for ambulance services outside of city limits.  A first attempt to hold an election to establish a fire district that would provide funding for ambulance services in the area, failed. 

The City of Sturgis later announced it would no longer provide ambulance services to a defined area of Meade County beginning in July 2019, citing continuing budgetary constraints. That led to the organization of Meade County Citizens for Fair Emergency Services and a public meeting held May 20th in Sturgis. Campground owner Ed Miller called it a good informational start.

“This was the first meeting with representatives of the county commission,” he explained.  “It was mainly informational and an opportunity for citizens to get their viewpoints expressed.” He added,  “I think there is more of a sense of direction on what we need to do to prevent ambulance service from stopping come July.”

The one thing that those attending the public meeting did agree on is that emergency ambulance services must not lapse.  To that end, the Fair Emergency Services group asked for volunteers to be a part of a working committee that will continue to move forward with plans that will show city officials there is a good-faith effort being made.

“I think there was some disappointment in learning that ambulance service was not considered to be something that was covered under property taxes,” said Miller.  “Going forward, I think there was recognition that we are going to have to come up with an equitable solution for funding an ambulance service.”

He continued, “There are a lot of steps to take.  I think this meeting was a good path forward to show that we are meeting in good faith to come up with a solution. That is what the leaders of Sturgis had asked for in order to consider extending ambulance service beyond July 15th.

I don’t think anybody, from Sturgis leaders to county commission leaders to the citizens, want to see ambulance service stop. Now the devil will be in the details.”

For his part, Bradley thinks another effort to form a fire district could have a different outcome.

“It’s on their radar now of how serious of a situation this is and there is a looming deadline with  the possibility that service could be cut,” he observes.  “The chances of a different outcome in forming a fire district are along the lines of greater awareness, a definitive deadline, and it’s either this or come up with a better solution.”

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Sturgis, SD 57785
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