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An ambulance awaits a call at the Sturgis/Meade County Ambulance Service facility.

STURGIS | Organizers say they are about one-third of the way toward their goal of raising $30,000 by the end of the year to help fund ambulance service for areas of rural Sturgis.

Sturgis Ambulance Fund co-organizer Andy Hollander told the Sturgis City Council on Sept. 3 that a collection effort on behalf of the Sturgis Ambulance Fund had raised $8,425.85, with more donations yet to be tallied.

“Our collection efforts continue,” Hollander told the council. “And we hope that 26 of the 40 collection sites set up before the (Sturgis motorcycle) rally will send in their donations in the next week or so.”

In July, the city council voted to delay a scheduled July 15 pullback of ambulance service for rural areas of Meade County outside of the city limits to allow time for about 4,000 residents in those areas to come up with a stable, ongoing funding source to continue the service.

The council had voted three months earlier to redraw the ambulance boundaries, eliminating service to rural areas, including many campgrounds hosting Sturgis motorcycle rally visitors.

Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said the Sturgis ambulance operated at an estimated $85,000 deficit in 2018 in spite of the city appropriating $100,000 for the service for each of the past five years.

Ainslie said the ambulance service would need an additional $60,000 annually to serve rural areas.

The July decision gave citizens' groups until Nov. 18 to raise $30,000 to cover the second half of 2019 and come up with a funding plan to raise $60,000 annually starting in 2020.

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Campground owner Ross Lamphere of the newly formed Rural Sturgis Ambulance Group told the council that fundraising during the recent motorcycle rally had been a success, with the group planning a mass mailing to households and businesses in the affected areas seeking more donations to meet the Nov. 18 deadline.

Moving forward, Lamphere said, the group was likely to take out petitions to form at least one governing district for ambulance funding. A Meade County election in December to form two ambulance districts for the rural areas failed.

The establishment of an ambulance district with a governing board that would set yearly fees for residents and businesses “is the main direction moving forward for the long term,” Lamphere said.

“A lot of people in our group have come to the realization that fundraising is not easy,” he said.

Ainslie said the $60,000 for the rural area service for the calendar year 2020 would not be due on Jan. 1 and could be spread out in quarterly or monthly payments.

“If there is a plan on how that is raised, they think the council will accept that,” Ainslie said.

The Rural Sturgis Ambulance Group’s next update to the council is set for early October.

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