Thursday, December 1, 2011 ■ Page 7 Struggling with our state’s oil boom First, Almont, and then Glen Ul-
lin, both in Morton County, acted to ensure no man camp would be built in their communities. They don’t want the trouble. They don’t want the grief. They beg off saying their communities are too small. That there are not enough services. Well, I guess that you cannot blame
them. Almont has become a very sleepy town. There’s little left of business on its small main street. The school has moved to New Salem.
Glen Ullin seems a little more active.
There are more people there. There are still an elementary and high school in Glen Ullin. There are more businesses. Bringing a man camp to either town
would certainly shake things up. Although, Almont’s man-camp ordi-
nance stands, the city will allow dormi- tory-style housing in its former school building. There’s irony, though. For years, ru-
ral communities in the state struggled to stem the loss of population. Dozens of economic development committees in North Dakota small towns puzzled long and hard about how to breathe life back into their town. How to cre- ate more jobs and bring young people to town. How to keep the few young
people that they still had. Unfortunate- ly, there weren’t enough success stories to go around. Many people, frankly, got tired and found themselves content to accept things as they were. Now, someone might want to come
to town, but not in the way people had imagined, or wanted or needed. Instead of welcoming them, small
communities run up against their worst fears. That they will be overwhelmed by people who do not share their values. That along with these “outsiders” will come social problems and crime. There will be drugs and violence. In order to provide services for these newcomers, taxes will go up. It’s a good bet that these oil people have come for the boom and big bucks, and they have no intention of staying or making a home here. There’s some truth in all of that.
When people come they bring baggage, and it isn’t all duffel bags and suitcases.
Many of them are hungry for work.
They need to take care of their families, want to get their lives together and hope for a stake in the future. Just like the people who settled Almont, Glen Ullin and hundreds of other North Dakota communities in the late 19th century. The values these “guests” display may not be so terribly different. Randy Hutzenbuhler runs the Theo-
dore Roosevelt Medora Foundation. When oil workers started coming to Medora the fi rst winter of this boom, the initial reaction of many was nega- tive. But Hutzenbuhler asked himself and his staff to fi gure out how to work
Small towns challenged by interest of ‘guests’ from oil country
with these new arrivals. How could Medora develop a relationship with oil workers that benefi ted community members and the workers? And how does that get done without putting the mission of Medora at risk? That’s the kind of thinking that could be going on in Almont, Glen Ullin and many points on the left side of the fold in the state map. How many people could a commu-
nity reasonably add? Is there enough housing or does it need to be built? What kind of housing? Who will build it? Can the utilities handle growth? If those people come, would it mean enough business to reopen the restau- rant? The grocery store? Do we need a deputy sheriff stationed in town? It doesn’t have to be a man camp,
per se. It can be something local people develop in a way that works within the community.
The only man camps that I lived in
were run by the Marine Corps. Each one was very different, but none of them was as bad as the current fear suggests. I’ve seen frat houses that were worse. (Ken Rogers’ column appears each
Saturday in the Bismarck Tribune. Con- tact him at ken.ro
Challenge continues on roads in western N.D. BISMARCK TRIBUNE EDITORIAL
The press of traffi c in the Williston, Watford City
and New Town areas demands continued improve- ments in roads and highways. U.S. Highway 85 north of Belfi eld runs bumper to bumper. State Highway 22, just reopened after a summer of repair, carries a heavy load.
Offi cials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Nov. 18 for the new “super 2” roadway between Watford City and Williston. The next day, the mayors of those cities were asking for that 40-mile stretch to become a four lane road. The state Transportation Department isn’t disagreeing with them. The pressure is on. New Town’s main street recently handled 11,000
vehicles — many of them semi trucks — in a single day. Alexander sees 8,000 vehicles a day. Most of the highways in the Bakken oil play area are two-lane and narrow. Beefi ng up Highway 85 to a super 2 from Watford City to Williston involved widening the road bed, add-
How about making that ‘super 2’ into a ‘super 4’?
ing space on the shoulders, turning lanes and passing lanes. The work was to be done over two years. The best news was that it was done in a single construction season. More of that kind of thing needs to happen — improving roads and doing it expeditiously. The Legislature has been generous in providing funds for road work. The task now is to get the design work done and bids prepared for next year’s construc- tion season. The work has to be sequenced so that traf- fi c can continue to fl ow while contractors work.
When Highway 22 was closed north of Killdeer this
summer to repair a section of road that slid off the side of a butte, it was hugely inconvenient for residents and truckers. It cost families, businesses and farmers and ranchers time and money. North Dakota Department of Transportation Di-
rector Francis Ziegler said work will now shift to the Highway 22 corridor and then it will come back to Highway 85. The future of traffi c in the oil patch ap- pears to be one of driving through a perpetual con- struction zone, sort of like Interstate 29 was in Fargo for years. At stake are issues of effi ciency and, more impor-
tant, safety. The DOT knows what has to be done. The resourc-
es are there to do it. Unfortunately, improving roads and bridges is not only expensive, it takes time. The state can’t let up in the push to get this work
done, and get it done right. And drivers, be patient and safe.
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