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Our View: Readers didn’t hold back in survey

Greed. Hate. Rude. Expensive.

These are a few of the words 1,310 readers used to describe how they feel about the changes happening in Dickinson and southwest North Dakota in response to a survey published by The Dickinson Press two weeks ago, the results of which are published in today’s newspaper.

The survey and comment section allowed readers an outlet to give their perspective on the oil boom, Dickinson’s growth and population increase, and the challenges associated with all of it.

An overwhelming 87 percent of readers expressed their opinions anonymously and those who left comments made their frustrations known.

It was clear that most readers who took the survey aren’t the people often interviewed by the media for stories relating to western North Dakota’s energy industry and the subsequent boom. They are ordinary taxpayers and citizens — some of whom made that very clear — whose voices have been deafeningly silent since this area went from the sleepy Queen City to a bustling and booming Bakken hub.

We’re learning that the western North Dakota oil boom has changed people’s attitude and feelings about the area they call home and the choices being made here.

While some relish in the prosperity and either downplay or ignore the negative impacts brought about by the boom — such as expensive housing prices, high cost of living, a lack of amenities and, just lately, water shortages — others, while pleased the economy is doing well, bemoan the boom’s negative impacts.

This was never more apparent than in our survey.

More than 57 percent of people who participated in the survey said they believe that Dickinson and southwest North Dakota is not a better place than it was five years ago. Another 18 percent answered “unsure” to the question.

Those numbers may shock some, but could also serve as the first bit of proof that the energy industry isn’t thought of as a saving grace by all western North Dakotans. Sixty-four percent of people believe the energy industry has brought a mixture of both good and bad impacts into the community while another 20 percent said it’s impact has been “bad” or “terrible.”

Other interesting items gathered from the survey:

- Readers of all ages and backgrounds wrote that they were scared or unnerved by the increase in crime and illegal drug use.

- When asked what amenities they thought Dickinson needed more of, fewer people chose the option for bars and nightclubs than those who chose a fill-in-the-blank option, where they wrote “police” and “law enforcement.”

- Several readers ages 50 and older commented that they planned to leave Dickinson when they retire.

- Of the people who said they’ve lived in Dickinson for five years or less, about half viewed their quality of life as having been positively impacted by the oil boom compared to only 23 percent of the total.

We’ll be the first to admit this was nowhere near a scientific study.

The demographics of those who chose to participate proved that. Only 16 percent of readers said they worked in the energy industry, 53 percent were female and less than 7 percent of those who took the survey were 25 years old or younger. None of those figures match up with the projected current demographics of the area.

One word, however, quietly dominated the comment section at the end of the survey: “People.”

That prove to us that above all else — more than supermarkets, big-box stores and restaurants — the biggest concern residents have about the area’s changing landscape is the people themselves, and despite all the frustrations vented by readers during this survey, it’s good to know the people are still at the heart of what southwest North Dakota readers care about.

The Dickinson Press Editorial Board consists of Publisher Harvey Brock, Managing Editor Dustin Monke and Assistant Editor April Baumgarten.