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Voters in Williston, Watford City asked to fund major projects

WILLISTON — Residents of two rapidly growing Oil Patch cities will vote Tuesday on using local tax dollars for major projects.

The Williston Public School District proposes a $34 million bond issue to finance a new high school to accommodate the district’s growth.

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A new high school would allow the current high school and middle school to be renovated to house grades 5-8, which would relieve crowding at Williston’s elementary schools, district officials say.

More than 700 Williston students attended class last year in 54 portable classrooms, and the district is projected to grow by another 1,300 students in the next five years. The total cost of a new high school and other improvements is estimated to be $56.5 million.

In Watford City, voters will be asked to approve a 1.5 percent sales tax to finance a new recreation and events center, a new hospital and other community projects.

The city already has a 1 percent sales tax, known as the Roughrider Fund, which is set to expire this year. Voters will decide on continuing the 1 percent tax and adding an additional half-cent to support major projects.

If approved, the McKenzie County Health Systems board can move forward with plans for a new hospital, clinic and nursing home.

The funds also would help finance a proposed $56 million indoor recreation facility and events center, aimed at improving the quality of life in Watford City to attract and retain workers and families.

In addition, the sales tax dollars would support community needs such airport projects and affordable housing for essential workers and seniors.

“It’s very important for our future,” Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford said.

Among the other races on the ballot Tuesday, Williston has a hotly contested mayor’s race to succeed Ward Koeser, who is retiring after 20 years.

City Commissioner and business owner Howard Klug is running against entrepreneur Marcus Jundt and Jim Purkey.