STURGIS | With only six weeks remaining before a Nov. 18 deadline, organizers say they have raised more than $17,000 of the $30,000 needed help fund ambulance service for areas of rural Sturgis for the remainder of 2019.
Ross Lamphere of the Rural Sturgis Ambulance Group told the Sturgis City Council at its Monday meeting in Sturgis that a mass mailing sent out to about 1,400 residents and businesses had suggested a donation of $50.
About 1,125 letters had been returned as undeliverable, but others resulted in donations ranging from $10 to hundreds of dollars coming in daily, he said.
"It varies depends on people's circumstances, I'm sure," Lamphere said.
As of Monday evening, a total of $17,957, including money from donation cans set out at a number of local businesses during the Sturgis motorcycle rally, had been collected, he said.
The council had voted on April 15 to redraw the service boundaries of the city-owned ambulance service, eliminating service to rural areas, including many campgrounds hosting Sturgis motorcycle rally visitors. The move resulted because of an ongoing annual budget shortfall, estimated by Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie to be in excess of $85,000 in 2018 in spite of the city appropriating $100,000 for the service for each of the past five years.
In addition to the $30,000 needed to fund rural ambulance service for the remainder of 2019, Ainslie said the ambulance service would need an additional $60,000 annually.
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In July, the city council voted to delay a scheduled July 15 pullback of ambulance service to allow time for an estimated 4,000 residents in those areas to come up with a stable, ongoing funding source to continue the service.
Lamphere said the Rural Sturgis Ambulance Group has scheduled a meeting for Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Sturgis Fire Hall to finalize petitions and review procedures for an election to form a rural ambulance district, and to elect a board of directors.
Lamphere said the group had a preliminary map of the proposed response area for ambulance coverage and were referring to it as the Rural Sturgis Ambulance District.
"All of this is well ahead of the November deadline," Lamphere said. "I think it shows our seriousness and the need to stay ahead of this and make this thing happen sooner, rather than later."
A Meade County election in December of last year to form two ambulance districts for the rural areas failed.
Ainslie said in September 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.
The next update to the council is set for Nov. 4.