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Leaders from 19 counties gather in Dickinson to talk about $1.8 million set aside to develop community visions

Press Photo by April Baumgarten Brian Cole, president of the planning company Building Communities Inc. of Baker City, Ore., and Vision West ND planner, speaks to attendees at the first Vision West ND meeting Monday at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson.1 / 2
Press Photo by April Baumgarten From left, Bradley Pelton, North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties assistant executive director in Dickinson, Diane Sickler, DLN Consulting Inc. finance manager in Dickinson, Lois Reierson,, Williams County Social Services manager, and Dunn County Commissioner Glenn Eckelberg listen to presenters at the first Vision West ND meeting Monday at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson.2 / 2

Representatives from 19 counties in western North Dakota met for the first time Monday at the Ramada Grand Dakota Lodge in Dickinson to plan how to use $1.8 million in grants to develop a community vision.

None of the funds will be used for infrastructure.

"When you are in rapid growth, planning is really important because we need to look at allocating state dollars and local dollars," said Vicki Steiner, North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties executive director.

The Vision West ND Consortium was formed to respond to the impacts from an oil boom in western North Dakota. Officials from each county must meet within three months with their residents for 13 hours to discuss their vision, Steiner said.

The consortium meetings are funded by $1.8 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the North Dakota Energy Development Infrastructure and Impact Grant fund, which was announced Nov. 22. The consortium also received $600,000 in-kind match grants.

The Southwest Rural Economic Area Partnership Zone and the Oil and Gas Producing Counties partnered to apply for the funds.

The Three Affiliated Tribes is also part of the consortium. No one from the tribe was present.

The goal of Vision West ND is to chart the course of direction for communities and counties, said Brian Cole, president of the planning company Building Communities Inc. of Baker City, Ore., and Vision West ND planner.

"This program is designed to be locally driven," he said. "When it gets right down to it (we) are providing resources to local organizations so we can work on your priorities."

The consortium officials voted to have each county finish local plans before the North Dakota Legislature convenes Jan. 8.

"You're input is critical for the success of this project, and you are the main-point person for your community," Steiner said.

There was a lot of information to take in at the meeting, Dunn County Commissioner Glenn Eckelberg said, adding counties and communities need a plan.

"My head is full," he said. "We're starting something new."

Vision West ND will hold community town hall meetings today at the National Guard Armory in Mott and Wednesday at the Memorial Hall in New England. Both meetings are from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

During the meeting, consortium officials also elected NDAOGPC President Dan Brosz as the chairman of Vision West ND. Steiner was elected vice chairman, and Deb Walworth, Beach-based Prairie West Development Foundation executive director, was elected as the secretary.

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