Editorial: Much could be done with $2.4 million set aside for planning — nowWestern North Dakota now has an extra $2.4 million to help plan. Think of this: Millions to help fund a series of local meetings to get public input, create local and regional strategic plans, look at municipal infrastructure needs and identify the best practices for planning policy in oil country. The money will also be used to pay the salaries of planners hired to help with this effort.
Western North Dakota now has an extra $2.4 million to help plan.
Think of this: Millions to help fund a series of local meetings to get public input, create local and regional strategic plans, look at municipal infrastructure needs and identify the best practices for planning policy in oil country. The money will also be used to pay the salaries of planners hired to help with this effort.
That’s $1.8 million in state and federal funds and a $600,000 local in-kind match to spread over 19 counties affected by oil and gas production, officials announced with great fanfare during a meeting last Tuesday in Dickinson.
What will this newest round of meetings and plans do that the hundreds of others have not?
There are so many plans and plans in the works, a person has to formulate a plan to make it to all the planning meetings. On top of plans is money being thrown around for studies so that communities can make plans once the study results are released.
This most recent $2.4 million is a lot of taxpayer money to put toward more planning. Everyone is dealing with issues that come along with oil activity — some negative and some positive.
Cities throughout the region have put a lot of resources, and continue to work on, comprehensive plans. Some places, like the city and county of Bowman, deserve credit for working together on plans to benefit both.
Across western North Dakota, planning meeting after planning meeting is held weekly and decisions are made on local levels. So how will leaders ever sort out which ones count? And who gets the final say in which is best? Toss of the coin?
Local and state leaders have attended a number of meetings and symposiums within the last few months and years to look at the needs of oil country. Here is a very incomplete list of clips from random articles to give a better idea of what’s going on:
Dickinson has been working on, “Dickinson 2035: Roadmap to the Future, a Comprehensive and Transportation Plan,” for about two months; there was an Energy Impact Symposium in Minot in March 2010; an Energy Impact Symposium in Dickinson in July; an Energy Impact Symposium in Dickinson in September; North Dakota Association of Oil and Gas Producing Counties annual meeting in Medora in October; Dunn County commissioners approved their comprehensive plan in October and a number of other counties are working on plan updates. Dickinson State University is also hosting an energy and oil community impact panel and forum next week.
On top of that, every community covers oil-related issues at every public meeting. It can’t, and shouldn’t, be avoided.
Another issue with millions designated toward more planning meetings is how long will they take? Infrastructure is being stretched pretty thin with thousands of people moving here to work in the oilfields.
The issues that go along with oil are apparent now — roads, housing, environmental impact, enforcement and $2.4 million sure seems like a lot to put into planning purposes.
There are millions designated to infrastructure from other grants and state allotments, and studies and plans are necessary but some could be put to better use.
For example, take part of the $440,000 in Dunn and McKenzie counties designated for a dust control study and use it to moisten a few of the roads where dust is most problematic — now.
Take a portion of this $2.4 million and invest in income-based housing to help those in our communities being displaced by skyrocketing home and rental prices — now.
Take another small portion of that $2.4 million and hire another officer to patrol highways 85 and 22; an area where traffic issues are of such great concern — now.
It’s likely too late to change where this latest $2.4 million goes, but it’s not too late to figure out where North Dakota shells out its next millions.
Publisher Harvey Brock and Managing Editor Jennifer McBride are on The Press Editorial Board.