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Area officials talk population growth

Al Heiser, Stark County road superintendent, speaks about population growth during a special city commission meeting in Dickinson Monday morning.

Nearly 30 Dickinson and Stark County officials gathered at City Hall Monday morning to discuss population growth.

While some officials feel the area needs to do more planning for growth, others worry about overdoing it.

Joel Quanbeck, senior planner with Ultieg Engineers in Fargo spoke about the importance of early planning.

"If you're going to do it, you had better do it right because it's a great way to get into trouble and controversy in a big hurry," he said. "It should be a coordinated approach to looking at your infrastructure and the capacity of the infrastructure, how you can extend out in a coordinated and cost effective way to serve those areas and also looking at where you need to invest capital in the heart of your city."

Utilities, sewer, water, roads, schools and park properties are areas that need be planned for, Quanbeck said.

"We're running a little late -- we need a comprehensive plan," said Ron Hartl, Dickinson Planning and Zoning Board member.

The county has 120 subdivisions, Hartl said, adding other growth in the area needs to be addressed.

Stark County Road Superintendent Al Heiser said past boards did not plan properly.

"I wish back then somebody was looking out for us a little better and as we move forward in the county, hopefully we can have somebody that's going to look out and have all of the bases covered for us," he said.

Issues with ditches, culverts and water are some of the issues the department deals with because of poor planning, he added.

"It's a real issue we have with some of our subdivisions," Heiser said. "Every day there's an issue someplace."

However, Rod Landblom, who was sworn in as a city commissioner later in the day, said he worries what the consequences will be if the oil activity in the area busts.

"I'm a little concerned that we can over plan and over prepare and over develop and then wind up back where we were when we had the bust back in the mid '80s," he said.

Quanbeck said this time around it seems there is more opportunity for long-term oil activity.

City and county comprehensive plans should reflect how officials deal with growth, Quanbeck said.

"It's important that you make sure that you are consistent with the plan when you start making decisions," Quanbeck said. "And if you don't have a plan that's fairly recent, it's probably something that you need to revisit."