Located in the northeastern corner of South Dakota sits a county dotted with lakes, ponds and rolling hills. Agriculture plays an important role in the economy, and when summer and fall arrive, Day County sees its population more than double as anglers, hunters and outdoorsmen find their way to this prime wildlife habitat.
When the population surges, the demand on the county’s emergency services also increases. So when the owners of the privately-owned ambulance service decided it was time to retire, County Auditor Karli Zimmerman stepped into action researching ways to keep this much-needed service available to their 5,449 residents.
“We began by checking with our surrounding counties, hoping we could use their ambulance service,” said Zimmerman. “But with our counties being very rural and spread across so many miles, we couldn’t come to an agreement with another county.”
It was important to have this service close to home since Aberdeen and Watertown are each more than 40 miles away. It was then the county researched ways to run its own ambulance service. Zimmerman and her staff looked into purchasing new ambulances and equipment, but it was quickly determined the cost for such a small county would be very prohibitive.
County commissioners and the current ambulance owners met several times and finally settled on an agreement for Day County to purchase the existing equipment and five ambulances, creating a turn-key solution to keep this valuable resource available right within the county.
The staff expanded their research for assistance in offsetting the costs. After talking with Spearfish, South Dakota, Zimmerman learned of Rural Development’s Emergency Rural Health Care Grant.
“I was able to connect with Mary Liz from Rural Development, who asked some leading questions to determine if we were eligible,” said Zimmerman. “After a brief call, she felt we were a good candidate for the grant.”
Mary Liz Stotz helped the county auditor’s staff navigate the application process, and in four short months, Day County received approval for a $90,000 grant to purchase the existing ambulance service.
“Karli was straight forward and told me she had never done anything like this before,” said Stotz. “I knew her experience as an auditor would be an asset to completing this project and she wasn’t afraid to ask questions.
The auditor’s office truly had the best interest of the people in Day County in mind, knowing they needed the ambulance service and the ERHC grant would help with the long-term financial viability of the ambulance service’s success. The final transfer of the five ambulances and equipment is scheduled for December 15.
This grant is a portion of the $2.4 million in grants recently awarded to seven South Dakota communities. To learn more about Emergency Rural Health Care Grants, visit https://www.rd.usda.gov/erhc or contact us at RD.SD@usda.gov.