Long-time local supplies ambulance new home

Leslie Silverman
The Hill City Ambulance Service has a rich history that began due in large part to the efforts of Terry Bottjen in the early 1980s.
A friend of Bottjen’s got injured in the Black Hills, prompting him to start a volunteer first responder unit here. 
Bottjen contacted the Rapid City Ambulance Service which supplied him with an old, four-wheel drive, Army MASH ambulance. Later Bottjen leveraged his home and  art gallery in Hill City to purchase an ambulance, turning the latter  into an ambulance headquarters. This laid the groundwork for the Hill City Volunteer Ambulance Service and eventually an advanced life support service.
Bottjen would  become the service’s agency director and after 16 years in tenure donated the ambulance, assets and equipment back to the town, essentially creating the Hill City Ambulance District locals know today.
The district covers 386.5 square miles. Technically a district ambulance building could be located anywhere within that area, but since the majority of the calls come from Hill City, Deerfield and Three Forks area it makes sense for it  to be centrally located. The district has been sharing space with the Hill City Volunteer Fire Department but that department is growing with new equipment already on order. Because the fire department  building is in a floodplain it also can’t be altered due to Federal Emergency Management Agency regulations. 
Thus, the search for property for the ambulance district began. However, finding a piece of property in this area to house the district is not easy.
“There’s not a lot of flat land outside of the floodplain areas with access to the highway,” said Eric Lind, treasurer of the fire protection district. 
In comes Cris Matkins, wife of the late Marv Matkins. Longtime Hill City locals know the Matkins family well. Bette Matkins, Marv’s mother, built the Chute Rooster. Marv ran a successful real estate agency and rented numerous units to families in town.
The “white house’ at 634 E. Main Street was one of the first properties that Marv bought. Cris and Marv were married in 1988 and held their wedding reception  in the house. Although the couple never lived in the house the home is a sentimental structure with a beautiful yard full of lilacs. Cris still lives right next door.
When Cris was approached by Bill Miner of the Hill City Ambulance District board about selling the property she agonized. For one, the property wasn’t for sale and secondly, Marv had always told her not to sell the “white house.”
But then she thought about Marv, and how the ambulance service was instrumental in saving his life.
“It saved my husband’s life more than once,” she said.
Cris describes that “feeling like forever” between the call time to the response time of the ambulance service, realizing that it is in fact only minutes until they arrive. She wonders how long it would take for a response to arrive from Custer or Rapid City. 
“Why would I want an ambulance service five miles out of town? They need to work with the fire department. What if something happens to a loved one I have? I think I would have lost Marv on the first one (stroke),” Cris said, knowing how precious those minutes are in an emergency. 
So she decided to sell.
She is certain that Marv is smiling down on her, content with the  decision to sell the property.
“Marv would have done it,” Cris said, describing her husband as a man with a big heart.
The property sale is technically between Matkins and the Hill City Fire Protection District. 
The Hill City Ambulance District could not secure a loan on its  own because it does not have the funding  or the assets to do so. Despite the technicality the site will eventually house the Hill City Ambulance District. 
And Matkins is very happy the “white house” site will be used for the good of the community for decades to come. Aside from being important to the well being of the community it is also a wonderful  tribute to her late husband Marv, she said. She hopes the site will one day bear a plaque, tree or a memorial bench as a means to honor the legacy and memory of her late husband.
She hopes that people in the community recognize the importance of “bending over backwards” for the Hill City  Ambulance District.
“Vic, Craig, Dennis, the two Jasons, I don’t know all their names,” she said. “But they are there when you need them.”

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