Growing pains, higher expectations hit local services

2013-02-27T16:30:00Z 2015-02-24T18:02:06Z Growing pains, higher expectations hit local servicesMilo Dailey Butte County Post staff Rapid City Journal
February 27, 2013 4:30 pm  • 

"It's growing pains," Butte County Sheriff Fred Lamphere says about stresses on services ranging from police and fire to ambulance services in the county.

Lamphere said there are a combination of factors that are hitting both Belle Fourche and across the smaller communities and open spaces in Butte County.

Culture also is changing.

"I see it in local volunteer fire departments, ambulance service and our office's reserves," he said. "We don't have the interest in volunteering that we used to."

Growth plus a shrinking volunteer base adds to stress on services.

"It's busier," he said.

A car wreck delayed Saturday's Belle Fourche Volunteer Fire Department banquet. Firefighters were on the scene to clear debris and help direct traffic after a non-injury crash at Highway 85 and National Street.

The ambulance was called too, just in case, even though there was no need for transport of injured accident victims.

"The expectation of the public or travelers now is for quick help," the sheriff said. "Old timers understand."

A move to form a countywide ambulance district failed in 2012.

The ambulance board is working toward another run at forming a district that would include all of Butte County. Rising costs of ambulances and staff training already have hit hard at the Belle Fourche division that surpassed revenue from the service's billing. Keeping upgraded equipment is an equal concern for the Newell-based division.

The board hopes that if agricultural acreage is excluded from a district tax, it will pass this year. The Belle Fourche Fire Department is just over half its organizational size of 39 firefighters. That's in spite of an excellent reputation, highly qualified firefighters and firefighter instructors.

The sheriff said increasing traffic through the county has put stress on all emergency services.

Lamphere recently got permission from the county commission for overtime pay for his three deputies when they are called out on their off-duty time. Commissioners also agreed to take a look at adding a fourth deputy after they have a chance to monitor this year's tax income.

One bright spot for Butte County and the Tri-State area is the upgrade in trauma services at Spearfish Regional Hospital. As of this year, it has national recognition as one of the top five hospitals in South Dakota for treating accident and other trauma victims.

Copyright 2015 Rapid City Journal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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