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South Dakota city seeks to recoup county ambulance costs

STURGIS (AP) -- A push for fire and ambulance tax districts to serve a city and county in western South Dakota didn't gather enough support to put the issue on the April ballot.

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STURGIS (AP) - A push for fire and ambulance tax districts to serve a city and county in western South Dakota didn't gather enough support to put the issue on the April ballot.

Sturgis sought tax districts as a solution to recover costs for providing fire and ambulance services to surrounding Meade County areas outside of city limits.

City Manager Daniel Ainslie told the Black Hills Pioneer they're considering next steps.

"It is highly likely that we are going to be providing an invoice to the county," Ainslie said.

In 2013, the two entities signed an agreement saying Sturgis will serve as a contractor for the ambulance service, which means the city will make all the purchases and hire employees. The agreement also says the city and county will split the service's operating expenses.

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Ainslie said that the Sturgis Ambulance Service is losing about $82,000 a year and that the fund is operating at a loss of about $640,000, as of November. The county could then be accountable for $320,000.

"We understood that any shortfalls would be met half and half, but from the time it was approved, we never received an invoice," said Meade County Commission Chairman Galen Niederwerder. "If they would have submitted a bill any of those years, we would have negotiated it or paid the bill."

Ainslie said Sturgis taxpayers shouldn't have to pay for rural residents' emergency services.

If more signatures were submitted within the coming weeks, it could be possible to schedule a special election on the tax district issue.

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