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City of Sturgis continues process to form fire, ambulance districts

F.Ganje - January 12, 2018

STURGIS, SD – A second meeting to explore forming two tax districts to provide emergency response services to Sturgis and outer areas saw more in attendance – and more ideas as to how to proceed with a process that will put  fire district and ambulance district boards in place. 

All of which must be done before the districts can become functioning entities.

City Manager Daniel Ainslie presented more information based on questions raised from the first public meeting held January 3, 2018.  Everything from locations of districts, billings, ambulance call originations, special assessments versus a tax mill for funding, and the number of registered voters in and out of the Sturgis city limits, provided the basis for even more questions.

At issue in the area of fire services, according to Ainslie, is that Sturgis city taxpayers are providing 71% of the funding needed to respond to fires – the majority of which are outside of city limits.

Meade County Commissioner Galen Niederwerder said the city’s statement that the county has refused to contribute is misleading.  The Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department declined to provide a financial statement when asking for funding, which was the basis for denial, according to Niederwerder.  Still, the county does provide $20,000 annually in the form of block grants to fire fighting districts and pays for workman’s compensation for Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department volunteers. 

In the area of emergency medical services, there was some discussion on previous and current agreements between the city and Meade County Commission.  At present, the agreement states the city and county will operate and maintain joint ambulance services.  The entities will share 50% of expenses that exceed revenues.  The agreement also states any ambulance service property is owned equally between the city and county.  And that if either wishes to sell, it will be done in good faith.  To date, the city has not billed the county commission for expenses exceeding revenue.

At issue are rural residents who feel they should not have to pay 50% of the cost of ambulance services in any, new ambulance district.  Objections are based on delayed response times (due to distances), and an increased use of resources brought on by the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally which they say they do not benefit from financially.

Ainslie said that concerns about equitable representation for both city and county residents within the districts had been recognized and discussed further by the City of Sturgis.  There was a suggestion from Meade County resident Wayne McPerson that for those in the rural area ambulance district, that only their residence be valued for the purpose of setting a tax as part of the funding for an ambulance district.  Ainslie pointed out that should that be the end result, it’s estimated there will still be a budget shortfall and that city taxpayers will have to pay more to offset any deficit spending.

Questions related to any proposed fire and ambulance district having to do business with the City of Sturgis created some tension in the audience.  When asked what recourse a district would have in the event of issues related to the delivery of services, equipment or costs, Ainslie responded that if the districts didn’t like the price or service provided by the City of Sturgis, they could go someplace else for those. Or provide their own.

Signatures continue to be gathered from rural residents within the proposed fire and ambulance districts. City residents are already eligible to vote. The City of Sturgis has set a June 25, 2018 deadline for the vote to determine the formation of a fire district and an ambulance district.

Phone number: 605-347-4455
E-mail: [email protected]
Address: 1612 Junction Avenue, Suite #1
Sturgis, SD 57785