STURGIS | Organizers of an effort to maintain ambulance service in rural areas of Meade County, having successfully met their goal of raising $30,000 for the second half of 2019, are now setting their sights on establishing an ambulance district though an election next year.

Ross Lamphere presented a check for the remaining balance of $30,000 raised on behalf of the Rural Sturgis Ambulance Group and the Sturgis Ambulance Fund to the city council Monday night.

Lamphere also said petitions requesting a vote on an ambulance district have been circulating for four weeks.

In April, the Sturgis City Council voted to redraw boundaries of the area served by the city-funded ambulance service.

The decision, made effective July 15, included the Interstate 90 corridor east to Tilford and areas of federal and private land north and east of Sturgis.

In July, the council pushed the ambulance boundary redraw date to Dec. 30 on the condition that residents and business owners in the affected areas could raise money to cover the cost of ambulance service for the last half of 2019 and come up with a long-term solution for funding the service by Nov. 18.

“Tonight, I am pleased to say we have both,” Lamphere told the council Monday.

He said six petitions have been turned into the Meade County Auditor’s Office with 127 validated signatures, about half of the 257 required.

“I am confident we will reach our goal within the Dec. 20 deadline that we have set for petitions to be in,” Lamphere said.

If the petition drive is successful, an election would be set for March 23 for residents who live outside the city and are not served by another ambulance service.

If voters approve the formation of an ambulance district, then another election would be set for May 19 to choose a five-member board to set levies to cover the $60,000 annual cost of the ambulance service.

“If these efforts are to be successful, we need more than your verbal support, we request that no more money is to be raised until after the district is formed and money is being collected through the ambulance district,” Lamphere said.

The council agreed, voting to delay redrawing the current ambulance boundaries and to not require additional fundraising until April 7.

“Petitions have not been certified. None of us know how the vote is going to go,” said councilman Terry Keszler. “I’m prepared to make a motion very much in favor of you folks, but I feel we have to have a little protection.”

Lamphere also said he hoped the city’s attempt to annex neighborhoods on the outskirts of Sturgis won’t hinder efforts to establish the ambulance district.

“I hope that we can prevail without these votes but remember the last vote on the ambulance district (in December of 2018) failed by only a few votes,” he said.

Sturgis City Manager Daniel Ainslie said the neighborhoods targeted for annexation, including a total of about two dozen homes, are already receiving ambulance service because of their close proximity to the city.

“The city for probably five years has very actively tried to annex areas receiving city benefits just to ensure that it’s equitable across the board, that everyone receiving city services is paying for those services,” Ainslie said.

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