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Watford City leaders break ground on $59 million health care complex

The new McKenzie County Healthcare Systems facility will be a 120,000-square-foot building that combines the hospital, clinic and long-term care facility into one central location. (Submitted image)

WATFORD CITY – Leaders here broke ground Friday on a $59 million medical complex to support the needs of the rapidly growing community.

The new 120,000-square-foot McKenzie County Healthcare Systems facility will combine the hospital, clinic and long-term care facility into one central location.

CEO Dan Kelly said the current 1950s medical facility has been taxed with the city’s booming population. The new complex will include 10 emergency room bays, 18 primary care patient rooms and 12 specialty care rooms.

“This sets a course for the next half a century,” Kelly said.

Watford City leaders held the ceremonial groundbreaking in conjunction with the city’s centennial celebration.

Mayor Brent Sanford said local history books about the city’s founding in 1914 talk about the rush of building that occurred around the development of the railroad.

Today, the city in North Dakota’s busiest oil county will have a new high school and a new hospital under construction at the same time. Community leaders also are planning for a new events center.

“We’re really in about the same place again, 100 years later. It’s amazing,” Sanford said. “It will be a rebirth.”

The hospital project is financed with a variety of sources, including a $39.2 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency, a $12.5 million loan from the Bank of North Dakota, community sales tax dollars and private fundraising.

The hospital project would not have been possible if community members hadn’t supported an increase in sales tax that will provide $700,000 a year toward debt payments, Kelly said.

McKenzie County Commission Chairman Ron Anderson said community members should be proud of their support for the sales tax, as well as their support for the bond issue for a new high school. But he wishes the hospital had more state support.

“Bismarck should be building that. We’re providing $2.1 billion a year to the state,” Anderson said, referring to oil tax revenue generated in the county.

The McKenzie County Commission has committed $1 million toward the project.

The low-interest loan from USDA Rural Development is the largest the agency has issued in North Dakota, said state director Jasper Schneider.

“This project is more than just a new building. It reflects a regional commitment to support families, workers, and makes it more viable for seniors to stay in the area,” Schneider said.

Several oil and gas companies have made commitments or expressed interest in contributing to the hospital project, said Myra Anderson, president of the McKenzie County Healthcare Systems Benefit Fund.

She announced a $1 million contribution from ONEOK, which operates natural gas processing and gathering facilities in the area.

“This is the transformational gift,” Anderson said. “This is the first one in a row of dominos.”

The group has raised $3.37 million toward a fundraising goal of $15.5 million, she said.

Amy Dalrymple

Amy Dalrymple is a Forum News Service reporter stationed in the Oil Patch. She can be reached at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890.

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