Residents raise concerns about energy effects at meetingArea residents expressed concerns about greed, damaged roads, high rent, safety and a change in town atmosphere at the Dickinson area energy impact meeting held at the Strom Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation on Wednesday in Dickinson.
Area residents expressed concerns about greed, damaged roads, high rent, safety and a change in town atmosphere at the Dickinson area energy impact meeting held at the Strom Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation on Wednesday in Dickinson.
The energy impact meeting Wednesday was the 16th in of a series of meetings being held in 18 oil, gas and coal counties in North Dakota. It was held by the Dickinson State University Energy Impact Symposium Committee.
Dickinson resident Steve Glasser, who works for the Strom Center, said he was concerned about the high rent in Dickinson and the safety of his family and neighbors.
Glasser said the rent in some areas has increased so much that many college students, elderly people, people on fixed incomes or those making minimum to average wage can no longer afford to put a roof over their heads.
He added that DSU is looking ahead at what to do about housing because officials are concerned that upperclassmen will want to stay on campus, which may limit the number of rooms available.
John Hurlimann, director of the DSU office of extended learning, said he has heard the crime rates have really increased in all the 18 counties the DSU Energy Impact Symposium Committee is visiting.
“There seems to be a need for more law enforcement workers, such as deputies,” Hurlimann said. “I have heard from many patrolmen and officers that there are a lot more felonies and that simple traffic stops and calls have sometimes led to bigger cases because they discover a person’s past trouble with the law or a situation turns dangerous in a short amount of time.”
Bev Turbiville, an employee at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Dickinson, said the number of emergency room visits has risen drastically along with mental health and addiction needs.
“There is a higher level of stress in the community,” Turbiville added.
Residents also brought up the inability of businesses to compete with those able to offer higher wages.
“One thing that struck me today was a guy that appeared homeless standing near the corner of Highway 22 and Walmart under a sign advertising its need for employment holding a sign looking for work, money or a ride,” Dickinson resident K. Dale Crowe said. “Walmart was even offering two dollars more an hour for certain shifts, nowhere else in the country will you see that.”
Dunn County resident Janell Hermann added she has heard people say there is a different feel in the towns attributing it to greed, jealousy, safety concerns and not knowing your neighbors like people once did.
Hermann said she was concerned about the affect fracking may be having on water and the lack of disclosure on chemicals being used in the process. Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is the process of injecting fluids into the ground to help increase extraction of oil and natural gas.
Joanne Beckman, energy impact symposia coordinator, said she has heard that some truck drivers have been taking county roads in order to avoid highway weight restriction rules.
Crowe said there are good companies that follow the rules and then there are those that do not.
“We just have to keep in mind we shouldn’t penalize the good guys for the fly-by-night’s mistakes,” Crowe said.
Hermann added dust and heavy traffic have also taken a toll on her and her husband’s enjoyment of their home.
“There is so much dust at times we can hardly go outside or open a window,” Hermann said. “The dust has also decreased yields for area farmers.”
Crowe added not all the impacts to Dickinson have been negative.
“You guys are very blessed,” Crowe said. “No other part of the country is enjoying the prosperity we are here. Sure there are growing pains, but we have jobs and some income coming into the county and there are so many chances to do well. We need to take them.”
Hermann agreed, adding not all the impacts are because of energy.
“It just so happens our boom came at the time when the economy collapsed,” Hermann said. “And people have families to feed and needed jobs and hearing we had some they came here.”
Crowe added the energy has also brought in a lot of money to the government.
“It’s a good thing but I think they are hanging onto it instead of giving it back because they fear a bust,” Crowe said.
State Rep. Shirley Meyer agreed, adding the government has made progress in trying to help the energy impacted areas with funding for different projects.
“It’s a start and hopefully we will be able to do more good in the future,” Meyer said.
The general consensus at the end of the meeting was the need to work together and maybe even turn to other states who have gone through similar energy booms to see how they handled changes.
“Share and share alike would help a lot with the greed,” Crowe said, adding if the community as a whole would give a little, work together and try to compromise, it may help in the long run.
“Part with some of the money coming in and offer a decent wage,” Crowe suggested.