ND Congress special session coming upNorth Dakota legislators may not agree on every issue as they head into a special legislative session Nov. 7 in Bismarck, but they do agree on one thing — how to handle growing pains in western North Dakota is a key topic.
By: April Baumgarten, The Dickinson Press
North Dakota legislators may not agree on every issue as they head into a special legislative session Nov. 7 in Bismarck, but they do agree on one thing — how to handle growing pains in western North Dakota is a key topic.
“We have an urgency in the oilfield where we need to get the infrastructure up-to-date as quickly as we can to avoid the next influx of people,” New England Rep. Mike Schatz said. “These things need to be dealt with in a timely manner.”
Increased oil production in western North Dakota has attracted more people, Dickinson Rep. Vicky Steiner said.
Dickinson’s 17,787 population is expected to climb to 24,000 by 2014, City Administrator Shawn Kessel said.
North Dakota communities, both big and small, need to get ready for more people, Schatz said.
“New England is a city of 500-plus right now,” Schatz said. “This is not a good situation if we are not prepared for it.”
Steiner said Dickinson needs a bypass to divert traffic out of town as soon as possible, adding she doesn’t want Dickinson to be overrun by trucks.
“I think we can take a lot of wisdom from what has happened in Williston,” Steiner said. “If it takes three to five years to get a plan that might not be quick enough.”
Schatz said an overpass or underpass should be built over the railroad on State Avenue to handle traffic flow.
Schatz also suggested a water depot be built near New England. This would help eliminate driving to Dickinson to get water for oilfield use.
Legislators meet every two years for a regular session. The upcoming special session was called by Gov. Jack Dalrymple for legislative redistricting. Other issues are changing the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux logo, health exchange bill, which would give North Dakota control of universal health care, Medicaid eligibility, and the disaster bill, which would allocate money for flood relief and highway patrol in western North Dakota.
Dickinson Sen. Rich Wardner said there would probably not be enough time for other issues.
“There are all kinds of requests people want,” he said. “If we want to do all this in five days, our plate is full with those five issues.”
Steiner said she thought there would be time to talk about infrastructure during the session.
North Dakota Congress appointed $927 million for infrastructure in western North Dakota, Wardner said, adding that he realized expenses have gone up, but not all the money has been spent.
“It’s not like we haven’t thought of them before,” Wardner said. “If it gets so bad, we can reconvene to take care of those issues.”
Wardner said communities are planning for the next session in 2013. He added communities must have an organized plan or risk not getting help.
“I realize there are a lot of things going on, but we just got to make sure we do this thing right.”
Schatz said the issues on the agenda are important, but he feels that infrastructure should have priority.
“I wish we weren’t dealing with the Fighting Sioux issue,” Schatz said. “I would much rather deal with western expansion and western infrastructure.”